KATHMANDU, Feb 14: A large number of inmates have lost work at the textile and garment unit in the Central Prison, Sundhara, Kathmandu.
Convicted inmates, who would stitch uniforms for colleges such as Padma Kanya and Mahendra Ratna Tachal in the past, are now without work as these colleges have adopted a liberal dress code. Many of the government hospitals, which earlier would procure bed sheets, have also stopped buying the item from the prison factory.
But, the factory survives, thanks to uniforms meant for Buddhist monks and nuns. Also, Civil Hospital procures bed sheets.
The prison factory run by Department of Cottage and Small Industries (DCSI) would earlier supply uniform for Sanskrit Pathsala and bed sheets for government hospitals in the past.
"More than 6,500 students are enrolled in Padma Kanya College alone. We have not decided to phase out the uniform from the college. But for the ease of students, we have not made it compulsory,” Swostika Pokhrel, President of Free Student Union at the college, said. “We know the uniform would give a distinct identity to the college but why should we alone enforce it strictly in our college,” she questioned.
"Inmates would send money to their homes in the past. Currently, about one hundred and fifty prisoners are having work for a few hours only. In the past, more than 300 convicts would work at the factory, which provides work to the inmates of Bhadra and women prisons also," Ramhari Dhungel, training officer at the prison factory, said.
“We cannot give commission and that´s making hospital administrations reluctant to purchase from here," an employee of DCSI, said.
Dhungel said the factory produces pure cotton clothes, which cannot compete with refined and imported clothes produced by modern machines. “We do not mix low-cost fiber and cloths of pure cotton are expensive,” he added. Prolonged load-shedding has also affected the production work. “All the machines operate on electricity and load-shedding has hit the productions very badly.
Superintendent of the prison hospital, Dr Kedar Narsing KC, said productive work at the prison help keep inmates physically and psychologically healthy. “They can make the best use of the time doing creative work in the prison while they can also support their families through such works,” he added.
Jailer of the prison, Tirtha Raj Bhattarai, said the prison factory is an old set-up and the government has not modernized it.
“Skills, which the inmates learn while working in the prison factory, do not come in handy when they go out of the jail,” he said. He said to transform the prison into a reform center, the government should provide modern skills to the inmates. About 2,500 inmates are serving their terms in the Central Prison.