BENGALURU: Krishi Mela saw the sale of freshly-grown vegetables at numerous stalls, however it was one stall that peaked the interest of most people at the University of Agricultural Sciences campus. Raddish, bananas, guavas, drumstick, ridge gourd, brinjal, bottle gourd, sapota and many more vegetables grown by 30 inmates of the open air prison at Devanahalli, were being sold in this stall set up by the Department of Prisons and Correctional Services.
Inmates are sent here from other prions on account of good behaviour. Of the 113,25 acre, nearly 70 acre of the jail is used solely for cultivation.
“Though the jail was built to take in 70 prisoners, we have only 30. The men spend seven-to-eight hours each day, working on the farm. 15 to 20 acres of the land has ‘toor dal’, which has grown to a height of seven feet. We also grow bitter gourd, jack fruit, ragi, seetaphal, gooseberries, mango, apple, chillis, jamun, marigold flowers, lemon and coconut trees,” said Mallikarjun, superintendent of the open air jail. Cows, sheep and hens are also present on the farm.
“Several inmates and officers come from agricutlural backgrounds and have that experience. We also have officers from the horticulture, agriculture and veterinary departments to provide training. They prisoner eat what they grow and the remaining is sold to HOPCOMS at Lalbagh,” Mallikarjun said.
Milk production by itself fetches Rs 1 lakh for the department. The stall at the mela was running out of produce and their truck was sent to procure more from Devanahalli. On day one of the mela, they made Rs 7,000 in half a day.
Though the jail started in 1972, Mallikarjun said farming was scaled up only two years ago. Drip and sprinkler irrigation is used and water is drawn from three water bodies. The inmates are attempting to make their farming 100 per cent organic. 70 per cent of it is natural at present, with only the occasional use of insecticides. Compost is not taken from the government but is homegrown, using manure from the cattle.
While prisons are known to make people depressed, owing to lack of freedom, the strategy here remains different. This is only one of its kind in the state, Mallikarjun added.