Hyderabad: A petrol dispensing nozzle in one hand, Imran Arif attentively listens to the customer's requirement. He punches a few figures on a number pad before filling the fuel tank of the motorist's vehicle.
For 35 year-old-man Imran, this is the first job in his life. It is also a moment of great pride for his family of six that includes his parents, wife and kids. It was not that Imran was not capable of doing a job earlier. Just that he had taken himself down a different path.
“I’m the only breadwinner in my family. For all these years, I picked pockets. Today I earn Rs 15,000 a month in a respectable manner," Imran told NewsMeter. "All I could have done otherwise was to go back to the theft.”
Imran is among 90 other current and former inmates of Hyderabad's Chanchalguda Central Jail who have been gainfully employed at the My Nation petrol bunk run by the Telangana Prisons Department.
Nearly two decades after he began emptying other's pockets, for the first time, Imran was sentenced to one year imprisonment last year. After release, jail authorities gave him a job at the fuel station. The bunk is entirely staffed by prison inmates and ex-prisoners who work in three eight-hour shifts to keep it open round the clock.
Started in 2013, the Chanchalguda petrol filling station has the highest sales among the 20 prison-run bunks across the state. It has a monthly turnover of Rs 25 lakh. In Hyderabad, apart from the Chanchalguda pump, there are five more petrol stations run by the prisons department at women’s jail Chanchalguda, Lingogiguda, Uppal, Charlapally and Moulali.
For Mohammad Irfan too, My Nation petrol station has given him a new lease of life. The 22-year-old was jailed of theft. After doing his time, he joined the bunk six months back. “This job helped me earn respect in my family. I was the only concern for my mother. Since the last six months, I’m giving my salary of Rs 15,000 to her."
The petrol bunk currently has 65 employees of which 23 are released prisoners and 42 are inmates.
Veera Babu, head warden of Chanchalguda jail, said, “Apart from good conduct, we give preference to those inmates who have family ties and have completed at least one parole. They are paid Rs 3,000 per month, and the money will be deposited into their prison account.”
Deputy Superintendent of Prisons Dr D Srinivas told NewsMeter: “Almost 90 per cent of prisoners we have are normal people. If provided an opportunity, they are ready to reform and lead a normal life. That’s why we have started various reformation initiatives. Apart from the petrol bunk we also run a canteen, vocation courses and jail made articles shop to reform the inmates. Many prisoners become depressed in jail. These programmes help keep them occupied with other things. It also makes the release prisoners independent. When they have a modest income, they won’t resort to crimes.”