Prisoners in Andhra Pradesh grow herbs for Himalaya Drugs Co

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Sowing Seeds
Hyderabad, Dec 5: The initiative of a Bangalore-based firm that is famous for its ayurvedic health care products has transformed some prisoners in Andhra Pradesh into daily wage earners.

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) inked by Himalaya Drugs Company with the state's Department of Prisons, inmates of the Anantapur open jail are currently engaged in the cultivation of a flowering plant 'alfalfa'. They get remuneration for their efforts.

"To encourage them to work efficiently, each prisoner involved in the cultivation work is being paid Rs 50. Only about five inmates are engaged in the field daily and as per the requirement, we rope in more inmates," said Venkateshwar Rao who is in-charge of the project.

On why they first started growing 'alfalfa', he explained that the medicinal plant can be cultivated at any time of the year. Moreover, 'alfalfa' is a high yielding crop and it can be harvested "eight times a year", Rao noted and added that Himalaya Drugs bought the first crop.

It was the company's fruitful association with Karnataka's prisons department that prompted C Gopinatha Reddy, former director general of Andhra Pradesh's Department of Prisons and Correctional Services, to think about replicating the public-private partnership model in the state.

Himalaya Drugs Company has not only supplied the necessary agricultural inputs to the prison authorities, it has also given training to some inmates of the Anantapur jail on how to properly sow the seeds.

According to Jail Superintendent S Lakshmipathi, 'alfalfa' has been cultivated since Aug 2012 with Himalaya Drugs providing technical assistance. On their part, the prison authorities ensure the supply of electricity and water.

"Initially, the cultivation began on two acres of land only. But now another four acres are used for the activity. Sowing of herbs is currently being carried out on a total of six acres of area inside the jail premises," he said.

As per the Himalaya Drugs Company's advice, inmates of the jail will soon take up the cultivation of aloe vera, gymnema and tulsi. Incidentally, convicts whose conduct during their entire time behind bars was exemplary and who never jumped parole are lodged in open jails like the one in Anantapur.

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