The prisons

Have come a long way through “I Dare”. I will not go on and on about the praises for her. All my appreciation for her stays there without saying.

But one thing that this book (basically the many chapters devoted to Tihar Jail) forced me to think about is prisons, to look at the issue philosophically as well as operationally. I think no one can really trace who thought of a system of prisons for the first time. Probably since the very beginning of civilization, the need of freedom for human beings is well recognized and hence is recognized imprisonment as a way of punishment. Over time various governance systems have come and gone, but prisons have maintained their existence and it seems they have remained more or less unchanged. Those who ruled over them have changed, some systems may have changed, but the essence of prisons remains what it always was.

The philosophical question is the good old one of who gives certain human beings the right to sit on judgment over some others and then deprive them of something as basic as freedom to move around wherever one want, freedom to be with whomsoever one wants, freedom to do whatever one wants and at whatever time? Humans are not perfect. First of all there might be loopholes in the rules and constitutions themselves. Even if they are assumed to be perfect, one slip of mind and hand and you might actually end up committing a crime for which precious years of your lives would be lost. Who has decided that? And probably that might still be acceptable, but what is not is the plight of people under trials in India. Surely we keep hearing about the delays in legal procedures, but it is after reading that book that I simply could not keep my mind off the situation. People waste 4-5-6-7 (and more) years of life un prison while under trial! And some of them are acquitted when they possibly have been there in prison for almost as much time as they would have been convicted with had they been found guilty. I just could not help shivering at the thought of being denied my freedom for 5 years at this stage of life – and it happens to so many people!!

There are so many aspects to it, but for now saying this much will suffice that it has suddenly brought a reality that was only a distant matter contained in newspapers so much closer to me!! And its shocking, disturbing and frightening…

If you have read it you might know what I am feeling right now. There are just so many things in the world about which we intellectually realize that something is wrong, but the experience is so far from us and we can not really feel the urgency of the need of some improvements. And then one fine day you suddenly realize that it is so important, so urgent and it’s been as urgent for probably centuries now…

Oh, the imperfections of the world – how heavy a toll do they take on some fellow human beings!!

9 thoughts on “The prisons

  1. But how can one reform a system without understanding it in its totality…..we’ll, as always, just end up creating a crest at the cost of a trough somewhere else.

    Man and his community is hardly understood in analytical terms and till that happens, all that we’ll get is short-term appealing solutions from momentary heroes.

  2. I am sure you realise that it is possible (though not probable) that an asteroid may strike the earth someday, and mankind may perish. When it is about to hit –> ‘And then one fine day you suddenly realize that it is so important, so urgent and it’s been as urgent for probably centuries now’

    But is it really wise to worry about such an eventuality, this being such an unlikely event….This is equivalent to ‘the experience is so far from us and we can not really feel the urgency of the need of some improvements’…..

    I should think it sensible to devote your energies to dealing with some disaster more likely to occur (say, a tsunami, from which we are not so far removed now….).

    It is perfectly natural to neglect even urgent matters until they affect us. We have our own little problems to face, from which we are not so far removed, and these, I am not surprised, take priority.

    If you start worrying about the things that are wrong with the world (even those which do not currently affect you), you will never enjoy life, nor be able to do something constructive about it. ‘Change the world, one idea at a time’ đŸ™‚ – the things which affect you 1st!!

  3. Ayan: What you are saying is correct, but then my philosophy of life would be to act, even if it is for momentary (momentary with respect to larger scale of time could be pretty long standing with respect to individual’s life) improvements.

    Wolverine: What you are saying is another philosophy of life, and I don’t have anything against it. Not that we can keep worrying about all that is wrong with the world. But a sensitization to as many things as possible is essential. Just in case some opportunity comes so that if we are not doing something to improve the situation, we should not end up being participant in a process of decay out of sheer ignorance. And I am sorry, but prisons are not as far a possibility as an asteroid hitting the earth! So, I do think one needs to ‘worry’; however I would not take ‘worrying’ in as literal a sense as you have taken. I am leaving my work and life and mourning about it. That does not happen for long even in the case of most personal of tragedies!

  4. Well a collection/network/group acquires characteristics of its own, unexplainable by its individual constituents (that’s an imp learning of 20th century science…theories of chaos, complexity etc.) so one constituent at a time may not be the best way to comprehend a group. And unlike some other sciences where atleast the basic constituents are fully grasped, in the case of man and his society, neither the individual constituent nor the aggregate is understood beyond uncertain heuristics.

    True, we will not (or probably cannot) sit still till perfect solutions are available, but we’ll atleast try to factor in the uncertain consequences and ‘Animal Farms’ which even noble intentions might give rise to….and not lose sight of the fact that beyond these approximations the ‘ideal solution’ needs to be worked out.

    And ‘enjoyment’ is a very relative term…osama gave up the luxury of his millions…and despite the global havoc that he is creating, ensconced in his ideological cushions, I guess, he enjoys it…

    Well, probably I’ve gone beyond the ‘commentator’s brief’…sorry about that…

  5. Well Jaya, I hadn’t seen your comment before posting mine, the previous comment was trying to discuss issues raised by Wolverine specifically…have to get back to work now…will post later if I have time.

  6. Well Jaya, only if they were guaranteed to be improvements… and sometimes to correct these momentary heroisms it takes ‘generations of moments’ down the line…

    But yes, man/woman cannot sit quiet in the face of what he/she perceives as incorrect; while in some it brings forth action, in others it creates the quest to understand…and luckily the two are not always mutually exclusive…

  7. Here’s an analogy from finance – the risk-return funda…..Here, the probablity of the eventuality occuring (like going to jail) = risk; and the damage caused (like spending very imp years of ur life in jail) = something like return. An investor will have the following priority reg. investments :
    1) Lo risk – Hi return
    2) Lo risk – Low return OR Hi risk – Hi return (depending on whether risk averse or risk taking)
    3) Hi risk – Low return (this is not even considered by investors….)

    Extending this to our topic, the priorities wud be :
    1) Hi risk (high probablity of occuring) – Hi damage
    2) Hi risk – Lo damage OR Lo risk – Hi damage (a term similar to ‘risk aversion’ cud be defined here….)
    3) Lo risk – Lo damage (unimportant…..not even considered; like, say, u hav a small chance of losing Re.1 in the year 2026….)

    The police arrest is a Lo risk – Hi damage kind of situation. Most ppl prefer to focus on Hi risk – Lo damage situations… u (who think bout police arrests) are equivalent to a ‘risk taking’ investor…..or shud it be risk averse?? think bout it đŸ™‚

  8. Try getting hold of a copy of “It’s Always Possible” by Kiran Bedi (Sterling Publishers). It’s her own account of how she tried to transform Tihar, and is a great follow-up to “I Dare” (unless one has already read it).

    The CD-ROM version, if available, is a better buy as the add-ons make the narrative even more vivid.

  9. Pingback: Miles to go… » Blog Archive » Save Indian Sanity - IV

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