NOIDA/GHAZIABAD: Amid the coronavirus outbreak, prisoners in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar jails have stitched around 85,000 washable, cotton face masks, to protect people from the deadly virus.
The two districts adjoining Delhi in western Uttar Pradesh have together recorded 107 COVID-19 cases -- 27 in Ghaziabad and 80 in Gautam Buddh Nagar -- so far, according to official figures.
Over 57,000 of these masks have been made at the Dasna jail in Ghaziabad, while 27,500 have been stitched at the Luksar jail in Gautam Buddh Nagar, officials said.
The work had started in these two prisons after the Holi festival in March but before the announcement of the 21-day lockdown, a senior official said.
"As more and more information about the coronavirus outbreak started coming in, some of the skilled prison inmates rose up to the occasion and volunteered for the job," Vipin Mishra, the superintendent of Dasna as well as Luksar jail, told PTI.
"Around 20 prison inmates at the Dasna jail, and 12-14 at Luksar are engaged in the work. Prisoners get a daily wage between Rs 25 and Rs 40 for their work, depending on the nature of their job - skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled.
Here, those making the masks, additionally get Re 1 per mask," Mishra said.
The fabric used in the masks is procured locally, he said.
"There is an advantage with these masks. These can be washed and re-used unlike some other varieties as disposing them is a concern...The inmates have churned out around 85,000 washable, cotton masks," the superintendent said.
He also lauded the commitment and intention of the inmates engaged in the work.
"There are all kinds of people in the world, good and bad both. Here also we have a lot of good people who have devoted themselves for this work now," Mishra said.
The officer said the masks have been used by the inmates in the jails in the two adjoining districts as well as by police personnel and those in the Uttar Pradesh provincial armed constabulary (PAC).
"These masks have also been made available to NGOs working for the poor people and some other organisations working during the pandemic," he added.
However, officials fear that the mask production might come to a halt soon as the stock of raw material is limited and the fabric is not readily available in the market due to the ongoing nationwide lockdown.
"The inmates are using the fabric procured earlier. Once that stock is exhausted, we will have to figure out what to do next," Mishra said.