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Feb 19, 2013 at 10:26am IST

AP: Pharmaceutical firm Himalaya helps build jail inmates' herb farming skills

Ananthapur: Prisoners in Ananthapur in Andhra Pradesh are getting a second chance in life. Through a unique rehabilitation program started by the pharmaceutical company Himalaya, the inmates are now turning to herb farming.

Shiva Shankar Reddy, a prisoner, has to supervise the tilling of the land so that the new batch of seeds, from the drug company Himalaya, can be cultivated. Shiva has helped Himalaya grow medicinal plants for the past six months and hopes that the money he makes will help him lead a normal life once he gets out of prison.

All the prisoners help one of the biggest herbal companies in the country grow the medicinal plant 'Alphalpha'. The inmates are trained by Himalaya and are also paid a monthly salary.

"Even If I paid Rs 10 lakh, I would not be able to learn what I have learnt here. I am a lecturer, but after I come out of prison I am sure no one will give me a lecturer's job, but now because I know how to farm, what seeds to use in which season, I am confident that I will survive when I am released from jail," Reddy said.

Like Shiva Shankar Reddy, most get their daily wages deposited in a bank, so that they have access to it once they're out of prison. For authorities in Ananthapur, this is the best rehabilitation program they can offer to the inmates.

G Jayavardhan, DIG, Prisons, Rayalseema Region, said, "Being an agricultural activity it requires a lot more prisoners, we can thus provide employment to many more people. In other areas we can't use more people, we are also paying Rs 70 to each prisoner so it is sustainable employment for 365 days."

Spread over an area of 4 acres, authorities provide necessary infrastructure such as water and electricity for the cultivation of land. The drug company Himalaya provides seeds, besides offering technical assistance. The project has been so successful that Himalaya now wants the prisoners to grow other high-end herbs.

"This is a very easy herb to grow fast, so as this project enters the second stage where it is successful, we will introduce more herbs which can be cultivated and which can be used across our product range like pharma, animal health care and cosmetics," said Dr UV Babu, Head, Phytochemistry, Himalaya Drug Company.

A good rehabilitation program for the inmates and quality herbs for Himalaya, this project is a win-win situation for all.

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