A first-of-its-kind initiative has been launched by the Telangana government to underscore the value of freedom and teach the public what it means to be in confinement. The Telangana prisons department has started “jail tourism” for the public to undergo a day’s imprisonment at the Sangareddy district jail by paying Rs 500. Visitors will have to book their “confinement” well in advance so that the authorities can make arrangements for them to spend a night and a day inside the barracks of this historic jail. The jail was built by the erstwhile Nizams in 1796 as part of their prison modernisation drive. Spread over 40 acres of land, the jail has a built-up area of three acres and can accommodate 240 prisoners, with separate male and female blocks.
After Independence, the jail was shifted to the new premises, while the old building remained locked for several years. Later, it was handed over to the health department, but again it came back to the prisons department in 1981. Once the jail authorities recognised its heritage value, it was converted into a jail museum and was thrown open to the public from 1 June this year.
People began visiting the jail by paying an entry ticket of Rs 10, but the number of visitors was not good enough to meet the maintenance cost of the building. The officials then hit upon the idea of introducing “jail tourism” by collecting Rs 500 per head. Accordingly, jail tourism was launched on 7 August.
“Perhaps, this is the first of its kind in the country,” additional jail superintendent Lakshmi Narasimha told The Sunday Guardian.
As per the schedule, after booking a ticket, visitors will be allowed inside the barracks at 5.30 pm and will be housed inside the cells. They will be served with food given to other prisoners such as rice and curry at night, a chapatti breakfast at 6 am, lunch with vegetables, dal and curd and the evening meal by 4.30 pm. One can stay in jail for as long as one wants by paying Rs 500 a day.
The “tourist prisoners” will not be assigned any duty inside the barracks like other prisoners. But they are free to clean the barracks or plant saplings or sweep the compound. However, even though the number of visitors to the museum has been increasing by the day, and while many people are contacting the authorities to enquire about the one-day confinement, no one has come forward so far to go inside.
Telangana Home Minister Naini Narasimha Reddy, who cleared the proposal of jail tourism, defended the idea by saying, “It is essential to know the value of freedom and spending a day in jail tells us how bad it is to be imprisoned. Students in particular should realise this.”