Inmates lodged in Andhra's open prisons are going herbal.
With a view to rehabilitate prisoners, authorities have roped in inmates in the cultivation of herbal plants required for aryuvedic medicines.
The Department of Prisons has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ayurvedic major Himalaya Drug Company to utilise services of inmates of open prisons to cultivate herbs.
Principal Secretary (Home) T P Das, who was earlier Director General of Prisons, had signed an MoU with the company in July this year.
"The cultivation of medicinal plants began at Anantapur open jail in August with the cooperation of the herbal healthcare company," Jail Superintendent S Lakshmipathi said.
"Initially the cultivation began on two acres of land only. But now another four acres are used for the activity. Sowing of herbs is currently being carried out on a total of six acres of area inside the jail premises," he added.
While prison authorities have been providing necessary infrastructure like water and electricity supply, the drug company provides seeds, besides offering technical
assistance, Lakshmipathi added.
To beging with, the prisoners cultivated 'alfalfa' crop, as this medicinal plant can be grown in any season of the year and gives high yields in short period of time, Venkateshwar Rao, jailor and in-charge of the project said.
"We can have alfalfa herb crop eight times a year," Rao said, adding that the first crop was purchased by Himalaya, while the second crop is now ready for cutting.
The drug company has trained a group of prisoners, who with the help of 20-25 other inmates, would complete the sowing work, he said.
The prisoners are even getting paid for their work. "To encourage them to work efficiently, each prisoner involved in the cultivation work is being paid Rs 50," Rao said.
"Only about five inmates are engaged in the field daily and as per the requirement, we rope in more inmates. We have plans to go for another three to four new crops like tulsi, aloevera and gymnema on the advise of the company," he said.