New Delhi, Aug 9: In a first, a 23-year-old prisoner lodged in Varanasi central jail has been awarded a gold medal by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) for topping in Diploma in Tourism Studies (DTS).
Ajeet Kumar Saroj, a culpable homicide convict was yesterday escorted to the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) where he was awarded his diploma at the 28th convocation of IGNOU.
Vice-chancellor of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University, Faizabad, G C Jaiswal awarded him the medal and also read out his curriculum vitae prepared by IGNOU.
Ajeet, who is serving a 10-year imprisonment, was lodged in jail in February 2012 and has pursued four certificate courses from IGNOU before pursuing the Diploma in Tourism Studies, a one-year course offered by the varsity.
"He pursued certificate courses in human rights, disaster management, NGO management and food and nutrition and had secured over 65 per cent marks in each of them. He is also pursuing B. Com from the university," said A N Tripathi, director, IGNOU Varanasi region.
The inmate is the only gold medalist from Varanasi region of IGNOU, which covers 20 districts with over 6,000 students.
Lauding Ajeet's achievement IGNOU Vice Chancellor said, "IGNOU is perhaps the only university in the world with extensive programmes for education and training of jail inmates."
"We have 94 study centres at jails across the country with 25,000 inmates benefiting from this initiative. 39 Special Study Centres have been established in different jails to cater to the educational needs of jail inmates during the last year," he said.
Fee waiver has been a significant factor in providing impetus to the rehabilitation of prisoners encouraging them to be productive members of society.
Along with academic programmes, vocational skill upgradation is being considered in areas such as carpentry, bakery, welding, tailoring, motorcycle mechanic training among others.
"The University has also facilitated placement drives for jail inmates with encouraging results. Inmates have gained confidence and sustainable means of livelihood," he added.
At the 28th convocation, IGNOU yesterday awarded degrees, diplomas and certificates to 1,92,000 students.
The credentials awarded at the convocation included 98 PhD degrees, 25 MPhil degrees, 47,198 Master's Degree, 75,305 Bachelors Degree, 51,253 Diplomas and 17,939 certificates.
The figures, however, have gone down as against last year's when 2.3 lakh students were awarded the degrees and diplomas.
The convocation ceremony was telecast live for the very first time on DD Bharti from the varsity's Convention Centre.