Inmates of Kadapa prison 'unmask' their talent

At a time when the entire country is scurrying for a protective gear in the testing times of COVID-19, Kadapa Central Prison has come up with a major intervention in meeting the demand for face masks.

The inmates of the prison have so far stitched 25,000 masks, apart from having an order on hand for a whopping 40,000 pieces to be distributed among government hospitals, departments and public sector undertakings alone. Though masks are produced in Nellore, Rajahmundry, and Visakhapatnam central prisons too, Kadapa stands ahead in numbers, thanks to its skill and preparedness. Much before the Janata Curfew was clamped, the jail authorities sensed the likely spurt in demand for masks in the forthcoming days and started acting upon the idea.

12 tailoring units

The jail is already equipped with twelve tailoring units to stitch uniform for police and trainees, while District Collector Ch. Hari Kiran offered 17 more from one of his training wings under the rural development.

The inmates are regularly trained in life skills. It was only recently that the current batch completed a course in electrical, plumbing, and tailoring course, which obviously came in handy for them. “What initially started with production of around 1,000 masks per day has improved to touch 2,500 pieces today. Kadapa is among India’s top central prisons manufacturing the highest number of nose masks,” Deputy Inspector-General of Prisons (Kadapa) M. Varaprasad has told The Hindu.

According to the cost sheet, the unit price works out to ₹7 a piece, which is cheaper than the ones available in the open market. With Shriya Texport, a Hindupur-based textile plant, offering to donate 2,500 metres of cloth, which is sufficient to make 45,000 reusable masks, the buoyed jail authorities have deployed more inmates into service. The quality of the cloth used is in compliance with the rules stipulated by District Medical and Health Department.

“We have orders for 40,000 masks from the Public Health Department, DM&HO, Rajiv Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Kadapa and the other Rayalaseema districts. Despite the pressure, we are currently not accepting orders from social and charitable organisations seeking bulk procurement for distribution to the masses,” Dr. Varaprasad adds.

“Every prisoner is given a sewing machine, while there will be a semi-skilled helper for three to four units. The entire job is split into smaller tasks like side-stitching, elastic, tags and distributed among the skilled prisoners,” explains jailor A. Naresh Kumar.

As the cloth came free of cost, the masks can now be supplied to the departments at a much cheaper price -- around ₹2 or ₹3 a piece.

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