Siddhartha Vashishta Charitable Trust (SVCT) an NGO that works primarily with the children of prisoners, held a seminar in New Delhi on Saturday, titled “Unseen, Unheard: Innocent Prisoners of Conscience”. The Manu Sharma trust highlighted the condition of the children of prisoners and how SVCT is working to alleviate their suffering through collaborative efforts of individuals, government and civil institutions.

The event, which was held at the India Habitat Centre, was attended by social worker Kumar Vishwas, former Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta, former Madhya Pradesh High Court Chief Justice K.K. Lahoti, Art of Living programme director and senior faculty Indu Sinha, founder of the women’s wing of Ekta Parishad, Jill Carr-Harris, motivational speaker Jaya Row and film director Madhur Bhandarkar, besides representatives of different organisations, families, children of prisoners. Former prisoner and painter Lama and sand artist Kaushik were also present on the occasion.

Speaking at the event, Indu Sinha, who has been working with 18,000 jail inmates across the country, said, “Conditions inside jails are very poor, I want to work with them and make them better persons once they are in the outside world.” She also thanked the SVCT for the noble work they have been doing in helping the families of jail inmates.

B.K. Gupta also shared his experience during his stint as DG (Prisons) and highlighted the lives of the inmates and the problems their children face. Speaking on the occasion he said, “The condition of inmates is not that good but we had worked hard to make Tihar as one of the model prisons in Asia, with focus on sanitation, clean drinking water and visitor management system.”

He also expressed his concern over the problems that the families of the inmates go through in society.

An audio visual clip played at the event provided first-hand experience of the problems and hardships that the families of the inmates undergo. Societal neglect and taboo continue to be attached to the family and children have to go through immense hardships both in school and in society.

Delhi has 14,183 prisoners, out of which 10,879 inmates are undertrials, while 3,242 are convicts according to the 2015 data. SVCT’s Prisoner’s Child Education Program takes care of educational needs of the children of prisoners ensuring, continuation of studies in the same schools/colleges as they were attending earlier and also by getting admission into institutions in their neighbourhood. Tuition fees, books, stationary and uniforms etc., are also provided to these children in addition to counselling, mentoring and motivational sessions.

Kanupriya Mehta, secretary of SVCT said, “These unseen, unheard children of prisoners are condemned and ostracised in society and are deprived of their basic rights. Because these children suffer from societal indifference and ridicule, coupled with extreme poverty, these children are financially and mentally very vulnerable and require our help.” Jill Carr-Harris, who has been working as a development specialist for more than three decades and also is the founder of the women’s wing of Ekta Parishad, the International Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence and Peace, praised the work of SVTC in helping underprivileged children. She said, “SVTC has brought together eminent personalities from all walks of life around such a noble cause.”

Kumar Vishwas said “We should change our opinion about the prisoners because the circumstances are also responsible for their acts. Though they are prisoners, they are working for the country’s interest. The jute ropes made by the Tihar prisoners were used by the soldiers during the Kargil war.”

The programme ended with a sand art which showcased stories on the lives of the of inmates and their families.


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