After earning a whopping ?13 lakh through the sale of 1,400 eco-friendly Ganesh idols in 2018, the inmates have already crafted 800 idols this year, including a nine-foot Chintamani-styled one, embellished with diamonds.
What started as a rehabilitation programme for the inmates in 2017, has now turned into a niche industry in itself, with the number of orders increasing every year.
“Last year, when our idols were put up for sale, local shop-owners opposed us with cheaper rates.
We explained to them that our target is not to earn money, but to show the world the capabilities of our inmates.
We got a lot of wholesale orders, but were not interested.
Our main target is to sell eco-friendly Ganesh idols as people don’t get those easily,” said Pallavi Kadam, senior jailer and factory manager of the jail.
This time, the inmates, who have been working on the orders since December 2018, have come up with 20 varieties of idols made of natural clay — the Titwala Mandir idol; Lotus Ganesha; Deta Gheta; Ganesha on asana and chairs; Dagduseth Ganesha; Garuda Ganesh; Balaji, Radhe Krishna Ganesha; Chintamani; Lalbaug Raja; Ganesha on Mushak Rath; among others. Kadam said they have a special room for making the idols.
“The inmates start at 8am and often work till 9pm with the festival nearing. The natural clay is bought on tender and other colours, diamonds and decorative items are sourced from Mumbai,” said Kadam.
“This year, the most attractive and tallest is the Chintamani idol, made of paper pulp and is very light.
We are decorating it with diamonds and it will be the most expensive one. We are also using different colours, including velvet ones for idols,” she said.
Pramod Wagh, superintendent of police, Nashik Central Jail, said wooden sheets and asanas to keep the idols have also been prepared.
“These asanas, along with cloth bags for the Nirmalya waste, will be complimentary,” he said.
So how did it all begin? Yogesh Desai, deputy inspector general, prison, Aurangabad, said that in 2017, they started the initiative on a trial basis as a rehabilitation programme.
“Usually, every inmate is first asked what work he knows. After Sagar Pawar, 36, one of the inmates, told us he is an artist and hails from Pen, in Raigad, known for crafting Ganesh idols, we asked him if he was interested in the project.
He was excited and started work in 2017. We sold 150 idols that year,” said Desai, adding the 20 inmates have been trained by Pawar.
“It’s a perfect example of rehabilitation program.
It keeps the inmates engaged and ensures wages. When they are out of jail, they can start earning by making such idols,” said Desai.