Joy and heartbreak in Tihar Raksha Bandhan
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A special enclosure in the courtyard of Tihar Jail was abuzz with a range of emotions as families of nearly 4,500 inmates thronged the prison to celebrate Raksha Bandhan on Thursday.
The jail authorities implemented a unique "advance booking system", allowing the prisoners' relatives to apply a month-and-a-fortnight ago for the visit. "This reduced last-minute confusion. But women without prior booking were also allowed in," Tihar spokesperson Sunil Gupta said.
"A total of 4,000 male prisoners met their families and friends today. There were around 15,000 visitors. Of the 5,500 female inmates, 125 received visitors," he said.
This is the only day in a year when inmates are allowed to meet relatives in an open area, instead of the designated room where they have to stand behind a wire mesh, with the visitor on the other side.
"Three persons per family, excluding children, are allowed per inmate. Around 30 inmates are allowed to meet their relatives for 20 minutes at a time. This opportunity comes once a year. Hence, visitors are allowed from 8.30 am to 6 pm," Superintendent of Jail No 6 Shamsher Singh said.
But the visitors are not allowed to carry anything inside. "We provide them with rakhis and puja material. We brought 850 packets of sweets from outside, besides 200 packets of petha that the inmates made. Relatives can buy sweets from us," Singh said.
Undertrial Lal Mohammad (65) from Bihar — lodged in Tihar since 2009 — eagerly waited for this day to meet his son and daughter. "He was a lorry driver and the CID found narcotics in the vehicle. He was not told about the consignment when the truck was loaded. We are poor and cannot hire a good lawyer to prove his innocence. Raksha Bandhan is the only day when my sister can meet him," son Arman said.
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