TANAHUN, Oct 4: While the Hindus across the country are busy celebrating Dashain with their family members, inmates at the District Prison, Tanahun are having sleepless nights worrying about how their loved ones are managing the festive season in their absence.
Prisoners serving their jail terms for various crimes miss their families more during the festivals. Though they can't celebrate these great festivals like others, they try their best to support their families financially by being involved in various income generating activities within the prison.
In order to reduce the financial burden of their family, they have been making hand woven bamboo stools. Weaving and making stools is a common job for most of the prisoners through which they earn and send money to their families.
Despite committing crimes, the prisoners still have a sense of responsibility for their family members. Their concern shows that they still wish for the well being of their family members in their absence.
There are altogether 113 inmates at the district prison of Tanahun and 50 of them are earning for themselves and their family members by making bamboo stools. The money that they earn has been a great support to their family members.
Tul Bahadur Bhujel, one of the inmates, says that he rarely gets free time these days as he is too busy making stools.
"We can't enjoy and celebrate this auspicious festival but we want our family members to enjoy and be happy," said Bhujel, adding, "I hope this little money can bring smiles in their faces even in my absence." He says this job has not just been a source of income but also a best medium to utilize their time.
Bhujel worked round the clock to earn Rs18,000 for his family members in Dashain. "There was a time when spending days was really challenging for us but now we don't have worry about passing time," said Bhujel.
Another inmate Ramesh Sunar says that the money they earn has not just boosted their economy but also their confidence. "My family members don't need to worry about me as I can earn for myself and also support them financially," he said.
According to him, such activities have also helped them learn and develop new skills which can be very useful even after getting released from jail. "This time, I sent Rs 25,000 to my home which probably will reduce their financial burden,” Sunar added.
As per the record kept by the prison authorities, the combined income of the jailbirds by making bamboo stools during this Dashain was Rs 700,000. The inmates of District Prison, Tanahun have set a perfect example that those having with skills and knowledge won't have to remain jobless even in jail.
Even from behind the bars, they haven't let anything prevent their family from celebrating Dashain, informed Tirthanath Khanal, acting chief of the district prison. "They are not in jail but away from their family to earn for their happiness," he said.
Most of the inmates agree that the jail term has instead changed them for better. They have not just realized their mistakes but have also developed a sense of responsibility toward their family. Now, they have realized the importance of their family members.
The stools that they make have high demand in the market.
"Unfortunately we have not been able to make as much stools as there is demand in the market," said acting chief Khanal. Not all prisoners have the skills to make stools due to which it has been a bit challenging to prepare stools as demanded by the customers.
The stools made by inmates are not just cheaper but comparatively better and stronger. This, to a great extent, has increased the demand. In Dashain alone, prisoners prepare about 1,500 bamboo stools which they sell for Rs 200 to Rs700 per piece. Acting chief Khanal informed that prisoners manage to send Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000 in Dashain to their family members.
However, this is not the only time that prisoners get engaged in such activities. At other times too, they have been involved in similar activities to earn for their livelihood.
"We used to work for our family even when we were outside jail but the only thing which is different now is that we are not together," said Sunar.
According to the prison authorities, the inmates earn around Rs 4,000 to 6,000 per month which is enough for them as they don't have to pay for food and accommodation.
Bamboo stools made by prisoners are sold in various markets of Damauli, Bhimad, Pokhara, Lamjung among other places. They are also exported to foreign countries.