In a unique endeavour, prison reform activist Vartika Nanda has launched Tinka Tinka Bandini awards to honour women prisoners in India for their exemplary work. The awards were released by Maneka Gandhi, minister, women and child development on the occasion of International Women’s Day. The 25 awardees include women aged between 25 to 83 who have been rewarded for their commendable work done inside prison . Among them is Dr Nupur Talwar, mother of murdered Noida teenager Aarushi Talwar. An inmate of Dasna Jail, Ghaziabad, Nupur has been chosen for her service as a dentist inside the prison. She has tirelessly treated a large number of inmates.
The oldest inmate in the list of awardees is 83-year-old Sakina Begum Mehmood. Serving life imprisonment in Nari Bandi Niketan, Lucknow, Sakina learnt the art of crochet and has been teaching the craft to other inmates. Her creations draw a large number of buyers at the annual Lucknow Mahotsav.
The youngest awardee is 25-year-old Neelam Ramchandra Gupta. Neelam was kidnapped by a dreaded dacoit of Chambal when she was a little girl. The young woman who has spent 11 years in the Nari Bandi Niketan has mastered computer skills and is also a regular organiser of cultural programmes inside the jail.
Another awardee from the same jail is Sundara, 56, who is serving life imprisonment . She has worked hard to transform a barren piece of land into a lively green space. During the 18 months of her stay, she has planted more than two dozen varieties of farm fresh, chemical free vegetables which will now be supplied to neighbouring jails as well. Harshita Mishra, superintendent, Nari Bandi Niketan, Lucknow, says that the women are elated after receiving the award, and many broke down into tears. “This is for the very first time that women inmates have been rewarded for their work. It has given them a big boost and has motivated them to do even better. In this male-dominated world, the achievements of women are often overlooked, and prisons are no exception. This act of appreciation will go a long way in making them confident,” says Mishra.
Yet another inmate, 36-year-old Ramilaben Dinesh Panchal from Gujarat, has been chosen for her relentless services as a nurse.
“There are more than 18,000 women inside prisons in India. No one gets to know about their unbelievable achievements inside the prison. These awards will help instil self-respect in these women, and help them rejoin the society as enriched human beings once they are released,” says Vartika Nanda.