THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The production of facemasks and sanitisers has taken a hit in the state’s prisons. Reason: A major chunk of jail inmates with expertise in these areas were either granted interim bail or parole following a High Court directive in the wake of the Covid-19 spread.
Sources close to the Prisons Headquarters told TNIE the authorities are trying hard to manage with the existing workforce.
A total of 53 prisons in the state—including district prisons – have manufactured 3.25 lakh two-layered cotton masks and 5,000 litres of sanitisers since the coronavirus outbreak. Production has fallen by half due to the shortage of manpower. Of the 53 prisons in the state, 31 were selected to make both masks and sanitisers.
The rest dealt only in masks, with 7,500-10,000 pieces being made daily. As per details available with the Prisons Department, as many as 500 prisoners were involved in the process. After the HC directive, over 550 under trial prisoners obtained interim bail and around 800 prisoners secured parole. DIG (Prisons) S Santhosh admitted that production has been affected due to the shortage of inmates.
“Many inmates released on bail and parole were experts in stitching using machines,” he said. Confounding problems, the availability of spirit has also hit sanitiser production. The prisons were relying on the Excise Department for sourcing spirit, but they too are facing shortage.
“We are working hard to ensure there is no shortage of products as we are distributing them to various places, including local bodies and health camps,” Santhosh said.
Despite the manpower crisis, three-layered masks are on the anvil for health workers. The Prisons Department is preparing to make cotton masks based on the specifications of the Social Security Mission. For this, an additional fabric will be stitched to the two-layered masks.
They will be similar in shape to the N95 masks which ensure good protection to the nose. “The initial work is over and we are sourcing the specific materials required. The masks will soon be made with adequate safety measures. These will be exclusively for health workers as three-layered masks are also running short,” Santhosh said.
The Prisons Department is selling these items as a non-profit venture, with each mask costing Rs 10, and 100 ml sanitiser costing Rs 50.