Like the paintbrush that he wields ever so lightly, Santosh Singh (27) seeks to make his sketches speak eloquently without too many props. His latest untitled work, on Hindu deity Krishna, has a dark male figure, with peacock feathers in his headband, dancing on lotus petals and a flute held by the lips.
Chances are, the painting skills of Singh, a murder convict lodged at sub-jail number 2, will now get appreciated beyond the walls of the high security Tihar jail, in fact, globally, thanks to a dedicated website launched by the jail authorities to sell merchandise made by its inmates. The website, www.tihartj.nic.in, launched on Friday, showcases the best of the prison’s products, known as TJ’s, with visual and textual details.
The ‘Contact Us’ section on the website’s neat homepage informs potential buyers that they can contact the ‘superintendent, central jail number 2’ and the ‘deputy superintendent, Tihar jail factory, jail number 2,’ for ‘orders, enquiries and suggestions’. Singh’s painting, worth around R200, is displayed on the website.
His other work, similarly untitled, portrays the late Mother Teresa’s dark silhouette, clad in a white Sari with the trademark blue border.
The website displays images and rates of TJ’s products under eight categories: handloom and textile, bakery, furniture, paintings, apparel, handmade paper products and mustard oil. The category, named ‘Other’, has phenyl. “We have launched the website, www.tihartj.nic.in, with the help of the National Informatics Centre. The website aims to sell TJ’s products and gain acceptability for them globally,” said the prison law officer Sunil Gupta.
On Saturday, said Gupta, the jail authorities received “an order worth R10 lakh from the Supreme Court Registrar’s office for a handmade paper product, file covers”.
The TJ’s products are manufactured by a team of 700 convicts at factories spread across the 10 sub-jails.
For their labour, Singh and the 699 other convicts, known as ‘factory workers’ at the prison, get a salary according to three grades based on their skill—R52 per day for ‘skilled workers’, R44 for ‘semi-skilled’ workers and R40 for the ‘unskilled’.
“We aim to double the existing TJ’s annual sale turnover, from R11 crore to R22 crore with the website,” said Gupta. The “sale’s profit goes to the government which in turn invests it for prisoners’ welfare and expansion of prison facilities.”