Want to buy personalised paper bags? Get them behind bars | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Want to buy personalised paper bags? Get them behind bars

Every morning, Habib Jaam and nine others gather around a table and start cutting newspapers and pasting them again to make sturdy paper bags. Susamma Kurian reports.

mumbai Updated: Apr 25, 2011 01:07 IST
Susamma Kurian

Every morning, Habib Jaam and nine others gather around a table and start cutting newspapers and pasting them again to make sturdy paper bags.

The 30-year-old is not working at a factory or environmental organisation. He is serving time at the Thane Central Prison for possession of drugs. Jaam was deported to India after he was arrested and convicted in Mauritius. He has been at the Thane prison since 2007 and he now heads the paper bags project team here.

“We cut the newspapers, paste them along with the brown paper using gum and attach the strings. It takes around 4-5 minutes to make one bag. We make around 100 in a day depending on the time available. I feel good when I am busy making bags. It helps pass time and it's better than sitting idle,” said Jaam.

The paper bags project is one of the several initiatives such as making bakery items or teak furniture taken up at the central prison as part of its prisoners’ reform policy.

“This project was started around 1 ½ months back on a trial basis as part of the rehabilitation programme of the Maharashtra prison department,” said jail superintendent Yogesh Desai.

A proposal of the project was sent to the inspector general of prisons, Pune S K Singh, who sanctioned it. Arvind Sule, an artist from a special school in Thane, taught Jaam and the other inmates the art of making paper bags.

“Most of them in the team are undertrials. So, many of them might be released on bail. We want to make it a permanent project. We charge Rs6 for a simple bag and we pay the inmates on the basis of their skill. An unskilled inmate earns Rs25 per day, a semi-skilled inmate Rs35 and a skilled inmate Rs40. The idea is to teach them a skill that will help them sustain once they are out of the prison,” the superintendent said.

The project has attracted 3,000 orders. Neha Nimbalkar, who runs a boutique in Thane, has ordered 1,000 paper bags. “This project is eco-friendly and is also a source of income for the prisoners. I was a bit skeptical initially regarding the product. But the bags are sturdy enough to carry two to three products,” she said.