Sabarmati jail inmates gear up for their own poll

At at time when the state is busy preparing for the Assembly polls, convicts lodged at the Sabarmati Central Jail are gearing up for an election of their own. In December, the inmates will be voting to elect members of "Kaidi Panchayat," a body that looks after the welfare of prisoners.

In this election, the inmates follow most of the electoral process, right from filing nominations, campaigning to casting votes. They elect members of nine committees to look after kitchen, prisoners' welfare, medical facilities, legal aide, education, canteen and industry, among others.

The term for the existing members will expire next month.

According to the jail manual, this exercise has to be done every year. "It is like a mini-election within the confines of the jail. But if you see the procedures, it is based on a democratic set up. We are going to announce the dates for the election in the second week of December, which will be followed by nominations and campaigns before casting votes," said Jail Superintendent R J Pargi.

He said there are strict guidelines for the election. A candidate must be a convict and not an undertrial and should not be involved in any dispute in his jailed life, Pargi said.

Once the election date is announced, the inmates will file nominations and would be assigned symbols. This will be followed by campaigning during which candidates are allowed to access other barracks.

For each committee, one inmate will be elected whose work will be to assist jail authorities in taking decisions. "It could be anything, from deciding vegetables for meal to assisting inmates in legal cases. We call them sevak. They work with jailers and have a say in deciding lots of things meant for inmates," Pargi added.

Last year, there were 52 candidates, mostly convicted for murder.

... contd.

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