The Indian Premier League (IPL) may be the cynosure of sports lovers in the country for weeks on end, but for the the inmates of the Malda correctional home, it pales in comparison to the inter-ward volleyball league (IVL).
“We installed television sets for inmates so they can enjoy the IPL matches. But since the IVL commenced in the first week of April, nobody bothers to watch IPL matches,” said Debashis Chakraborty, superintendent of the correctional home.
The volleyball tournament among five wards in the home ended in the first week of this month; it was a source of huge excitement among inmates. “There were 20 matches; resembling the IPL, we arranged home and away matches to make the tournament more exciting,” said Mr Chakraborty.
Earlier, there were provisions for playing cards, ludo and carom in the correctional home. But, since the inception of regular academic schools and cultural training here, a strong urge for participating in games and sports was observed among inmates. They were no more satisfied with slow games.
In October, 2011 when the Social Welfare and Women Development Minister Sabitri Mitra visited the correctional home to offer bhaai phonta to the inmates, they pestered her for a volleyball set.
“Mrs Mitra complied with their demands within three days; she said it was bhaai phonta gift for her inmate-brothers,” Mr Chakraborty informed.
Incidentally, female inmates participate in the games with zeal that often equals that of men. “Interest of female inmates in games and sports is worth mentioning. They are participating in large numbers in carom, ludo and chess and have been pursuing me for a badminton set,” he said.
They had also demanded for a table-tennis set, which Mrs Mitra subsequently arranged, along with another carom board. “They have as much right to play as much as my brothers have,” said Mrs Mitra, while assuring that their demand for a badminton set would be met.
Correctional home authorities were approached by the North Bengal table-tennis association and Subhamay Chatterjee started coaching inmates. Authorities are now waiting for benevolent souls to coach inmates in badminton and volleyball as well. As of now, Fakir Mahara ~ a warder of the correctional home and a former state-level volleyball player ~ and Shantanu Ghosh, controller, have been coaching inmates. Mr Chakraborty said that despite demands from inmates for a badminton tournament, it could not be organised due to the heat.
Debapriya Saha, joint-secretary of the 111-year-old Malda Club, has offered to help. “We will visit the correctional home soon and in consultation with the superintendent, arrange for male and female coaches,” he said.
Apart from games and sports, inmates are enthusiastic about the yoga session in the home. Rajkumar Mandal of Prajapita Brahama Kumari Iswariya Vidyalaya has been imparting yoga training to inmates, along with three other teachers, for over a year.
“Inmates’ response is marvelous! The number of inmates keen on participating in the regular yoga camp has been rising so rapidly that we have already urged the superintendent to allow us to engage two more trainers to maintain the camp,” Mr Mandal said.
There is also an Art of Living class. Venugopal Lanka and Leena Sharma, who have been Art of Living trainers, meet inmates over 10 days every month. “Inmates’ bright faces are suggestive of their inner awakening. They claim they have benefited from the camps,” Mr Lanka said.
“Incidentally, the arrogant and violent inmates are excelling in games and sports, and there has been noticeable change in their conduct. I wish they could be provided a football ground,” Mr Chakraborty said with a sigh.