Four-year-old Priti Kewat from Rewa, Madhya Pradesh started going to the BNP Memorial Higher Secondary School this week. It’s normal for a small child her age to step out of the house, holding her parents’ hands, to attend school. However, what was unusual about this little girl’s first day at school was that she was not coming out of her home but stepping out from behind the thick bars of Rewa Central Jail. Her tiny hands were not holding on to those of her parents but were gently held by police officers.
Priti was taken to jail in October 2014 when she was just two years old; her only crime was that she was the daughter of two murderers.
Mishrilal Kewat and his wife Chameli Bai Kewat from Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh were convicted for murder and sentenced to lifetime imprisonment by the Waidhan District Court in October 2014. As there was no one else to take care of their only daughter Priti, she was allowed to stay with her parents in jail by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).
In 2006, the Supreme Court of India ordered that children could remain with their incarcerated mothers up until the age of six and should then be placed with surrogates. Following the Supreme Court ruling, Indian prisons also had to provide crèches for children under the age of three and nurseries for children aged three to six. However, as Rewa Central Jail did not have a nursery within its premises, the jail authorities proposed that Priti be sent to the nearby BMP Memorial School, which is just 500 metres from the jail.
Once the CWC approved the jail’s proposal, the school authorities also lent full support to their decision and offered free education for Priti. The jail authorities have appointed a lady constable to drop and pick up Priti from school.
This is the first time that a jail has taken the initiative to provide a good future to the children of prisoners. There are four more kids in this jail who are staying with their convicted mothers; they are all two years of age. But after Priti has started going to school, their mothers are very hopeful about the future of their children too.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s Prison Statistics India Snapshots – 2012, 1,394 existing prisons house 385,135 inmates in the country. There are a total of 344 women convicts with 382 children, and 1,226 women awaiting trial with 1,397 children, lodged in various prisons in the country. This beautiful initiative taken by Rewa jail authorities for Priti has opened new doors for all of them.