The jail has also set up eco-friendly candle and fabric units, solar power plants and organic compost pits in its premises.

"Though we started the units to provide more avenues and impart skills to the inmates, gradually we have realised the importance of operating such eco-friendly set-ups," says a jail official.

Tihar, one of the largest prison complexes in south Asia, was set up in 1957 and houses around 14,000 prisoners.

The herbal garden at Tihar grows kalpa vriksh, nargis, satawar (aspharagus), lemongrass, neem, cardamom among other varieties.

"The inmates are allotted different tasks as per their talent and willingness. They generally approach us and ask for work that suits them," Jyoti Chaudhary, Assistant Superintendent, Jail 6, Tihar said.

The bio-gas plant at the jail converts kitchen waste to cooking gas with a per-day capacity of treating 750 kilograms of waste.

"The bio-gas plant takes 15-20 days to convert kitchen left-over into cooking gas. Technicians visit the plant and guide the inmates about its running. Now it is fully operated by us," says an official at Jail 2, where the plant is stationed.

"The waste is kept in a 'predigester' for 4 days that is then moved to the 'receiving tank' for 5 days. The waste is finally processed in 'main digester' for 15 days thus completing the process," says inmate Gauri Shankar (44), who runs the plant along with another inmate daily.

Jail No 6 housing women convicts at Tihar is a chirpy place as women dressed in saris, salwars and pullovers can be seen stitching, weaving and making various snacks for the TJ brand.

"Incense sticks, pots, candles, vermicelli, artificial flowers, papad, pickles etc are made by the women convicts here. The TJ brand is going places now. Our products sell like hot cakes at emporiums, trade fairs, Dilli Haats, District courts and other state outlets," says Chaudhary.

"The products also symbolise the confidence and courage of the inmates who are trying to build their lives despite the adversity," the official adds.

Chaudhary, who is also the vocational and welfare head of Jail No 6, adds that the eco-friendly candle units of Tihar usually do brisk business during Christmas, Diwali and other festivals.

"We sell a pack of 10 designer candles for Rs 50-150. The demand peaks around festivals. We made a switch from gelatin-based candles to paraffin from 2005. Gelatin candles require glass containers which is a prohibited item. They also have issues in monsoons when the moisture content is high, thus the shift," she says.

34-year-old Su-Papoir from Thailand, who was convicted for drug-peddling and is counting two more years for her release, is considered to be an expert at candle-making by her fellow inmates.

"I was not equipped with any skill before I came here. I had to take the illegal route to earn a living. But today I feel more confident to face the world. I will go back to my country after the release and use the skills I acquired here," she says.

The woman also explained how the wax is boiled at a certain temperature for the candles; colors are added to the mix and put in a mould to give them the desired shape.

"We get to show some creativity with our candles in terms of its color and shape. A group of 4-5 women work in the candle unit, others join as per their wish occasionally. We get Rs 80 for working 8 hours a day," Su-Papoir says.

The candle unit is run with the help of Prakash candle project, an NGO that imparts training to the inmates in making the candles.

"Tihar has tie-ups with NGOs who train the inmates in various professional skills. The inmates in turn help their
fellow mates in learning the skills. It works like a cycle," says another official at Jail No 6.

The women cell also boasts of an organic compost pit that uses the manure it prepares in the various gardens at Tihar. The initiative was set up by Swalamban, an NGO working on organic cultivation.

"We prepare the compost pit with the pile of kitchen waste. We have been trained to provide the right mix of water and compost to the pit. A compost kit comprising of the pots and other aid is also given to us.

"The manure thus produced is used in the various gardens here. We have vegetable, fruit and herbal gardens here," says Rosy Vijender, a convict under National Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS).

When asked if she will be interested in using these eco-friendly measures once she is out of the prison walls, she said, "Why not? A compost pit can be made easily at home with the kitchen-leftover'. I would definitely try my hand at such measures."

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