Prison inmates across JK manufacture face masks; target 1 lakh masks by month-end

Jammu:  Hundreds of inmates in prisons across Jammu and Kashmir have volunteered and joined efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic with mass production of face masks in jail premises, officials said on Saturday.

They said the prisoners started manufacturing the high quality polypropylene masks last month after the prisons department’s proposal got the nod of the Lt Governor G C Murmu administration which has called for universal usage of face covers to contain the spread of the contagious disease in the Union Territory.

Jammu and Kashmir has recorded six coronavirus deaths so far four in the Valley and one each in Udhampur and Baramulla districts with nearly 450 others infected in the union territory.

“The mask-making inside the jails in both Kashmir and Jammu divisions is going on in full swing under the watch and guidance of the concerned Jail Superintendents and we are targeting to produce one lakh masks by the month end,” a senior official told PTI.

He said the Director General of Prisons, V K Singh, responded positively to the proposal of the prisoners who came forward to lend their services after hearing about the shortage of masks in the open market ahead of the nationwide lockdown which came into effect on March 24.

“The DG prisons took the matter to the government. Experts in the drug controller department were also consulted before the commencement of the work which saw the inmates manufacturing over 1,000 masks on an average daily despite facing shortage of cloth in the early stages,” the official said.

He said the masks made at the cotton yarn factory within the jail premises were distributed among the prisoners and the jail staff. After experts suggested the use of polypropylene, the fabric was procured initially from a merchant in Jammu and later in bulk from Ludhiana in Punjab.

Another official said the prisoners in the District Jail, Jammu are leading the campaign of producing the masks and had so far manufactured over 25,000 masks.

“Major chunk of the masks had already been distributed, some given free of cost to the frontline workers and the rest sold at Rs 15 per piece. Our masks are of best quality and those available in the market in the range of Rs 50 and Rs 60 are no match to our product,” he said.

The official said the demand from various quarters including government offices and chemists is very high.

“Since the prisons department has come out with a number of guidelines for the safety of the prisoners against COVID-19, the auditoriums which were rendered useless in order to maintain social distancing were converted into manufacturing units to meet the growing demand,” the official said.

He said maximum five masks are being given to a customer to ensure large distribution and check hoarding and black marketing.

As many as 288 prisoners were released from various jails this month to decongest the prisons on the directions of the Supreme Court. The prison department has come out with a slew of measures like no meeting of jail inmates with any visitor and proper screening and mandatory quarantine of new arrivals in the jails.

However, the department has allowed liberal telephone facilities to the jail inmates to keep in touch with their close relatives and ensure that they do not fall victim to depression, besides distributing sanitizers and informing them about the precautionary measures needed to be taken to keep away the disease.

“The mask-making has also helped the prisoners to remain busy and focused,” he said, adding that it is a small attempt of social contribution from the prisons department for the overall welfare of the Union Territory.

In addition to the district jail in Jammu, the masks are being made by the inmates in Central jail Kot Bhalwal, district jails Udhampur, Kathua, Rajouri and Bhaderwah in Jammu region and Central jail Srinagar, district jail Anantnag and special jail (correction home) Pulwama in Kashmir valley.

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