The Swatantrapur jail had inspired Shantaram to make Do Ankhein Baraah Haath, which was released in 1958 and went on to win the Golden Globe award. Swatantrapur (habitat of freedom) was founded in 1939 by Pant Pratinidhi, rulers of then princely state of Aundh. The open jail with a capacity of 28 inmates, who get special exemption from capital punishment for good conduct, is spread across 76 acres, of which 15 is cultivated by the inmates.
Besides, each inmate is given a piece of land (two gunthas) to till and they are allowed to earn from the yield. The drought, however, has affected their source of income as they can’t cultivate this year. Five of the 19 inmates live with their families, while some among the rest send the money home for their dependents.
According to Mahadev Talekar (name changed on request), who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a corporator from Badalapur, the source of water has dried up. “It is very difficult for the inmates living with their families to survive on a daily wage of Rs. 40, which is what we now get for clearing a pond on jail land,” he said.
Jail superintendent Mahadev Jadhwar said, “After we realised in the beginning of the summer last year that farming would not be possible due to the water scarcity, we approached the government for permission to take up the pond-clearing work,” he said.