It is 1pm and a silence descends on the Satna central jail as inmates and jail authorities wait in anticipation when a voice over the public address system booms.
“Jai Hind bhaiyon! Welcome to Jail Vani. You are listening to Kamlesh, your RJ (radio jockey) for the day,” the voice says.
The greeting is followed by songs, news and information from the outside world.
Kamlesh, a convict lodged in the jail, doubles up as the RJ and is part an “internal radio station” which is run entirely by inmates, says Shefali Rajesh, jail superintendent.
The experiment is being carried out by the jail authorities to reform and rehabilitate inmates, she says.
“We were inspired by Sanjay Dutt, who is presently lodged in the Yerwada central jail in Pune. We thought when he could entertain fellow inmates why not inmates in our jail who had talent, could do so to inspire fellow inmates,” she says.
The programmes-combination of entertainment and information-on the radio station are designed, scripted and performed by inmates, and “aired” on the public address system, says Rajesh.
The hour-long programme runs between 1pm and 2pm, when inmates have free time.
“Though the radio station may not be exactly the same as the ones on regular radio frequencies, the jail authorities have tried to give it a feel of a true radio station,” she says.
The jail administration has set up a small relay room with an amplifier, a computer, a mike and a public announcement system for the radio station.
During the hour-long programme, inmates are given lessons about patriotism, religion, entertainment, government schemes, law and order, human rights and how to start life afresh after jail.
“The basic objective of introducing the radio station is to connect inmates with the outside world and to make them sensitive about the society,” Rajesh says.
“We provide national and international news to inmates. We are also trying to infuse feelings of patriotism with a programme called ‘Salam-e-Shahadat’.”
She says the programme as introduced on January 14 and in four days there were major changes in the behaviour of inmates.
“Kamlesh, a convicted prisoner lodged in the jail, has good knowledge of music so he plays songs which inmates can relate with their lives. Mehtab Khan, another convict, is popular as ‘shayar’ and he entertains inmates with his shairies (Urdu couplets).”
VK Singh, director general of police (jail) says, “It is a very good initiative. We will try to introduce the concept in other jails of Madhya Pradesh too.”