The upcoming central prison in Umroli village of Palghar will give villagers opportunities for income generation and a hope for early resolution of issues affecting their lives. These facts, when presented to the gram sabha, helped authorities convince the villagers to allow its construction.
The rectangular facility, which can accommodate over 2,000 inmates, will be built on a 25-acre land in Umroli village of Palghar taluka. Sources in the prison department told mid-day that the marking on the land has been done and the foundation stone will be laid soon. A senior prison official told mid-day that it would also have an anda cell (egg-shaped cell) where hardened criminals can be confined.
At the Collector’s office
How villagers were convinced
“Once the central prison is operational, villagers will be employed. Their issues, like the water crisis, will also be addressed faster. The tribals, who are daily wage earners, have to spend a lot of money on travel to Thane in case their family member is in jail. They will save not just money, but time too when jail comes closer. These facts helped convince the gram sabha, along with a video conference with Manukumar Srivastava,” said a source in the Palghar collector’s office.
Boost to tribal art
Another senior prison official said Warli painting, a form of tribal art, will get a boost inside the prison and the artworks will be sold in the market. The inmates will be taught other skills like carpentry, bakery and tailoring at the prison.
A video conference at the collector’s office
“Umroli village is located between industrial suburbs, Palghar and Boisar, and growing fast. The jail will generate income opportunities for the locals and help in the village’s development,” Deputy Sarpanch of Umroli Gram Panchayat Jeetendra Gharat told mid-day.
“The unemployed youth and women can supply milk, vegetables, rice, etc. to the prison. Women can also supply home-cooked food to the prison staff. Besides, villagers can also start food stalls for people visiting the inmates,” Gharat said, adding, “Once the central jail is ready, we hope our water issue will also be resolved.”
Why it was needed
Currently, all the offenders from Palghar are sent to Thane Centre Jail. The proposed facility will not only save the government expenditure in transporting prisoners from jail to court for hearings, but also give a huge relief to the inmates’ relatives and counsels who have to travel from the remotest tribal hamlets of Palghar district to Thane for jail visits.
Map of the Palghar Central prison
The proposal for the prison was made eight years ago, when Palghar district was carved out of Thane district. However, it was expedited only after the tragic lynching of sadhus in Palghar in 2020. Hundreds of accused were arrested and sent to Thane Central Jail. While the prison has a capacity of only 1,108 inmates, it currently has 4,700 inmates.
Seeing the four-fold rise in the number of inmates, Thane Central Jail’s superintendent Harshad Aherao started working on effective strategies to address the issue of overcrowding. He met with senior prison officials and decision-makers at Mantralaya in 2020. The then state home secretary Manukumar Srivastava was convinced by Aherao’s proposal, following which he started looking for a land.
“The upcoming high-security prison will reduce the overcrowding in Thane Central Jail by almost 30 per cent, as all the offenders of Palghar district will be shifted there,” a senior prison official told mid-day, requesting anonymity.
“Because of the urbanisation in Palghar, the crime graph is rising in the district… After I resumed office in Palghar, I received a letter from the home secretary to find land for a jail. Thereafter, prison officials also met me for the same as finding a land was a difficult task, as it needed approval from the gram sabha and the villagers were not ready,” Palghar District Collector Dr Manikrao Gursal said.
We started the work immediately, owing to the urgency and found a sufficient patch of land in Umroli village. The gram sabha was initially reluctant to give us the land, but they finally agreed. We finally got a 25-acre land for the jail without spending a single rupee. After acquiring the land, we handed it over to the prison department for further development work,” Dr Gursal added.
“The upcoming prison in Palghar will be centrally located in the district, as all the important government establishments, including police headquarters, court, hospital, railway station, collector office, will be within the radius of 1 km,” said a senior prison official. “Moreover, Boisar industrial road, Ahmedabad Pune Bullet train project and proposed RTO office will also be within a 2-km radius.”
No. of inmates it would accommodate
Size of plot for Palghar Central Jail
Originally published at www.mid-day.com