Even before relief material began pouring in from other states for Kerala, help had come from within, thanks to the hundreds of prisoners who came forward to feed those stranded without food and water in the floods.
For the past few days, over 350 inmates from across the State's prisons have been cooking and packing food to be airdropped or sent to the relief camps and rescue teams working in the state.
"Inmates from the Thiruvananthapuram central prison, Women's prison and Special Sub Jail have been cooking and sending out food packets containing chapatis and kurma for the relief camps. They made over 40,000 chapatis in just two days. We've even been feeding the rescue officials – Army, Navy, NDRF and Coast guard who have been working tirelessly and sometimes even without access to food," DGP of Prisons Sreelekha told TNM.Over 120 prison officials worked hand-in-hand with the inmates and the collectorate, dropping off food and water bottles to the air bases and nearby relief camps. Every day, at least 50,000 water bottles and 20,000 food packets were being provided from the prisons, the DGP confirmed.
"The prisons are taking turns to feed those in the camps. On Monday, the Alappuzha district prison will be supplying food to relief camps. District prisons in Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Kollam, too, have been providing food to the camps. In Viyyur, the inmates of the Central prison provided kanji to victims housed nearby. In a prison in Kannur, food packets, baby food and other materials were collected and sent to the air base," DIG of Prisons Santosh told TNM.
If this wasn't inspiring enough, many of these inmates have volunteered to donate their daily wages to the CM's flood relief fund, the officials said.
"Inmates from each prison are undertaking this initiative. From the Kannur Central jail, inmates have donated upto 4 and a half lakhs to the CM's fund. And this is just one prison," Santosh added.
Efforts to ensure safety of inmates
Most prisons in the state, barring the district jail in Pathanamthitta and a prison Kottarakara, were unaffected by the recent floods.
"The Pathanamthitta district jail is built on a low lying area and had 21 inmates and five prison officials. We moved them to the top floor of the prison and provided food, water, medical aid and other amenities that would last them for days. They were safe for three days and now the water levels have also receded and things are back to normal," said Sreelekha.
The officials expected crisis in the prisons of Vythiri and Mananthavady in Wayanad district, which witnessed massive landslides due to rains. However, the building and its inmates remained mostly unaffected in the calamity.
"We were prepared to handle the situation when it happened, and we had cleared vehicles near the entrance. Inmates who were eligible for bail were released. We warned judicial officers of the possible calamity and asked them to send those suffering from ailments to the prison. Further, even those who were to be remanded were asked not to be sent to the Wayanad jails," Santosh told TNM.
The officials also allowed inmates on parole who could come back due to floods to stay back home a few more days.