He encouraged the prisoners of Pune’s Yerawada jail treat the walls as their canvas.
He has the same plans for the inmates of Arthur Road jail.
Rajendra Dhamne (49), the man who made yoga teachers and painters out of prisoners at Yerawada jail, took charge as Arthur Road jail superintendent last week.
“I had facilitated the training of 110 prisoners at Yerwada to become yoga teachers. They were issued identity cards and awarded certificates by Patanjali Yog Samiti,” said the 49-year-old in his air-conditioned office at Arthur Road.
His table is clear, except for a phone and a computer. Not too much work, he said explaining his clutter-free office. “This is an undertrial jail so the work pressure is less,” he said.
He said he would not compromise on the prison’s security. “The jail’s security remains my top priority,” he said.
Dhamne was posted at Yerawada from 2005 to 2008 and has also seen high-profile prisoners like actor Sanjay Dutt.
Dutt was lodged in Yerawada after being convicted in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.
A yoga instructor himself, Dhamne introduced yoga for prisoners and encouraged them to take up painting.
“I told those who were good at painting to treat the prison walls as their canvas,” he said.
Murder convicts and those serving life sentences were among those who took up painting.
“The paintings were sold at retail price,” said Dhamne. “I plan to introduce this in Arthur Road too.”
Soon, Dhamne and his staff will conduct yoga classes for undertrials.
While the Yerawada jail had lots of space — it has handloom, power loom, bakery, tailoring and carpentry units, — the Arthur Road jail has space constraints.
During Dhamne’s tenure at Yerawada, output from these units and agricultural initiatives increased by 20 per cent.
With help from non-governmental organisations, he had also ensured that 50 prisoners who were released from Yerawada in the past two years started life afresh.
“I helped them get jobs in private companies,” he said. “They are working hard and none of them have quit their jobs so far.”