Essay on Nav Jiwan Shivir at Mungaoli (Madhya Pradesh) !
An open jail for the rehabilitation of hardened and habitual criminals was set up at Mungaoli in Guna District of Madhya Pradesh in November 1973. The idea of setting up this open jail was mooted after the mass surrender of dacoits of Chambal Valley on advice of Sarvodaya leader Late Shri Jai Prakash Narayan.
The surrender was led by Mohar Singh and Madho Singh, the notorious dacoits of Chambal ravines who carried rewards of 2 lakhs and 1.5 lakh dead or alive. Out of 550 surrendered dacoits, more than 400 were released after completion of their term of imprisonment in 1980 and only those serving imprisonment for life were retained. But the number of such convicts has never exceeded 20 or 25.
During nineties, this Jail housed only 13 prisoners with a staff of 35 looking after them. The intake capacity of this open jail was about 150 inmates. This jail was housed in old building of Basic Training School with necessary alterations and modifications.
It had eight barracks for prisoners excluding accommodation for jail staff. These barracks were not locked in night nor there were any walls around the jail compound. The jail was spread over an area of about one hectare of land fenced by three metres long wire-fencing.
The inmates were paid wages for their work so that they could support their families. They could be granted bank loans for starting certain occupations such as dairying, poultry farming, tailoring, agricultural farming etc. The earnings of inmates through these occupations were credited to their bank accounts. The peculiar feature of this open-jail was that the inmates had then- own canteen run on co-operative basis.
The inmates also had their own panehayat for settling their mutual disputes and maintaining discipline inside the institution. There were only three or four escapes from this jail and the absconders were promptly apprehended. The working of this open-jail for the last so many years has shown that even the most hardened and professional criminals could be returned to society as law-abiding citizens if they are trusted and taken into confidence.
The inmates in Nav Jiwan Shivir at Mungaoli were allowed fifteen days parole in every six months to meet their relatives and members of the family. They could write four letters in a month free of cost and any number of letters at their own cost. There was a common mess. The life inside the shivir was well regulated and disciplined.
However, consequent to the mass release of dacoits in 1980’s, the State Government had to spend lakhs of rupees per year on this jail. Since the dacoit menace no longer persists, the lifers lodged in this jail were transferred to the nearest central jail and this jail was finally wound up.