Krishna is in search of a job but what makes it harder for him to find one, is the fact that he is an ex-convict. On Saturday, he was at the job fair organised by the Telangana state prison department, along with 249 other ex-convicts to try his luck at finding a job. A total of 12 firms had set up stalls at the Chanchalguda Central Jail in Hyderabad.
The 25-year-old had spent three months in jail this year for marrying a minor three years ago.
â€śWe got married three years ago, my wife was just six months away from becoming a major,â€ť explains a baffled Krishna, who was jailed based on a complaint filed by his in-laws three years ago. â€śI donâ€™t understand why they arrested me three years later. Now, I have two children with my wife. My mother-in-law who had initially filed the case even pleaded to the judge that the initial family problems were all resolved, but the judge did not listen,â€ť he adds.
After being jailed, Krishna lost his job as a marketing executive with a real estate firm in the city. â€śI tried explaining to them, lekin ek baar criminal ka thappa laga tho life bhar nahi chodega (once you get branded as a criminal, the tag stays with you forever)â€ť. He now drives an auto and works as a part-time house broker and is trying his luck for a data entry job with one of the firms that had come for hiring.
"If one reads the judgement copy of some of these convicts here, you will fear the person, you won't even feel like treating them as a human being. But once a convict enters the prison, they change their attitude, and we, as police officers, also realised that our attitude towards them has to change,â€ť says M Sridhar, deputy jailor with Chanchalguda central jail in Hyderabad.
Khaleel Ahmed spent almost 10 years in jail for committing a murder, but says heâ€™s had enough living the life of a convict.
â€śI have had enough with jails but these days police try to slap false cases on me as I am a known offender,â€ť says the 29-year-old from Warangal. â€śI reached out to the prison department officials and told them that I am being implicated in false cases. The Warangal Police Commissioner spoke to the police officials and requested them not to harass me.â€ť Khaleel who has studied till intermediate, blames his friend circle during schooldays for him ending up in prison. He now leads a quiet life, stays away from social gatherings and has a strained relationship with his family members.
â€śThese days I work at a petrol pump and don't socialise much, people fear me. I go to work and come back home, that's my routine. I do talk to my family now and then, I have two brothers but things between us are not the same as before,â€ť he says.
Khaleel wanted to land a job with a mobile phone repairing firm that had set up a stall at the job fair. However, he did not get the job. The ex-convict laughs it off saying, â€śThey say I am too old for the job. The rejects are nothing new.â€ť
The initiative for the job fair came after ex-convicts reached out to the Prison Department for their help. Speaking about the initiative, A Narasimha, Inspector General (prisons), says, â€śThis job fair is the first of its kind in south India.â€ť He adds, â€śThere is a stigma attached to ex-convicts. The moment they land in jail, a prejudice gets attached to them and they get branded for life. Friends, families and everyone look down on them and it takes a toll on their self-esteem. People
At present, the jail owns 15 petrol pumps where 100 convicts and ex-convicts are working as pump attendants. â€śWe hope to increase the number of pumps to 100 spread across each district, and the district collectors are in support of the idea,â€ť says Sridhar.
All the 250 convicts who had registered for the job fair were vetted by the Telangana prison department. Speaking to TNM, K Raju, the HR manager for Karvy, who had come for hiring says, â€śWe are looking for data entry level and tele-caller jobs. The qualification is just intermediate as a minimum. So far, we have interviewed 5 people and hope to hire 10 by the end of the day.â€ť
Chakradhar, the founder of Skill Lathe, who brought the 12 companies for the fair, laments that he was unable to get more firms. He says, â€śAbout 50 of the ex-convicts who had applied for the job already have some skills but the companies here today were not suitable for them.â€ť He is hopeful that more companies will come forward to hire the ex-convicts in future job fairs.