Days ahead of Holi, inmates in the prisons of Delhi-NCR begin preparing organic gulal, not just for their celebrations of the festival but also for the world outside the periphery of the jails. And this year, too, many inmates are busy working with ingredients like fragrant rose and marigold petals and bright leaves, to make this Holi a herbal and happy one for those they can’t meet but can spread a smile to with their handmade products.
At Tihar Central Jail, the air these days is loaded with the sweet smell of flower petals and gujiya fillings. “The herbal gulal that is made here is quite popular among public. Some of the inmates here are also engaged in making sweets,” says Sandeep Goel, director general (prisons). Priced at ₹75 per 125g and ₹50 per 100g, the gulal is up for sale at Tihar Haat, Tihar Emporia, Dwarka Courts, Tis Hazari courts and Pusa complex outlet for general public.
Calling it a part of the prisoners’ rehabilitation process, Goel adds, “We try to keep the inmates engaged in various production activities or vocational trainings to help them stay motivated and aid their reformation.”
Similarly, in Ghaziabad’s Dasna Jail, inmates have begun preparing herbal gulal around 10 days prior to the onset of the festival of colours. “They will make around 1.5 quintal of safe and dry herbal colours this year,” says Alok Singh, jail superintendent, adding, “Our effort is to keep it natural, and so they are working with ingredients such as arrowroot powder, gulab aur gende ki pankhudiyan and powder. Besides being used for celebrations within our premises, the gulal will also be available to the public via the inmates’ cooperative society. We keep the price of final products close to the cost price.”
Gulal packets worth ₹20 (100g) and ₹35 (150g) are up for sale at a counter outside Dasna Jail. The proceeds from these will go to the Bandi Kalyankari Kosh, that takes care of welfare activities of the inmates.
Colourful tales to infuse new hues into the lives of inmates
Besides whipping up the sweet delicacies and gulal, some prison inmates will also try their hands at storytelling this Holi. Vartika Nanda, prison reformer and media educator shares, “It’s the first time on this Holi that women inmates — from the jails of Jind, Ambala, Karnal and Sonipat — who were selected and trained to be radio jockeys, will participate in the radio broadcast from Haryana Jail Radio. This will also have some Holi special stories, for the listeners who will be tuning in to hear them.”
Author tweets @siddhijainn