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Tourists Will Soon Be Able to Live Like Prisoners in Asia’s Biggest Jail

India’s Tihar Jail plans to offer visitors the real prison experience such as living in a locked-up cell, eating jail food, wearing the uniform and possibly chilling with some real inmates.
11 October 2019, 8:12am
Tourists will soon be able to live like prisoners in Asias biggest jail
Indian policemen stand guard as an ambulance leaves the main entrance of Tihar Jail in New Delhi on March 11, 2013. Photo courtesy Manan Vatsyayana / AFP

What better way to escape reality than to lock yourself up in a jail cell amongst hardcore criminals and high security? It is this idea that’s driving Delhi-based Tihar Jail’s ‘Feel Like Jail’ project. Asia’s biggest prison is planning to open its heavily guarded gates to give visitors a taste of jail life for a fee of about Rs 2,000 ($28).

The experience will give you your very own jail uniform and a cell with an attached bathroom. But instead of a bed, you have to sleep on the floor like any other prisoner there would.

This prison package will take away cell phones for security reasons, but will also include early morning exercises like grinding wheat, participating in daily activities like painting and meditation, and eating jail-cooked meals (because prison food is apparently so good, a former prisoner in Chennai once even got himself arrested again to get some more).

What makes this experience especially intriguing is that Tihar Jail—which is spread across 400 acres and has more than 16,000 inmates locked up in it right now—currently houses notorious criminals like Yasin Bhatkal, the founder of the terror organisation Indian Mujahideen and one of the most wanted men in the country, and Chhota Rajan, the Mumbai-based mobster who was moved to a separate high-security cell here after his gang threatened to poison the prison food.

So while the project will separate tourists from such hardened criminals, a source told India Today that "only selected inmates (convicted) will be allowed to live in this complex with the visitors." "These prisoners will be shortlisted based on their behaviour while they are lodged in jail. It is important for visitors to share the same premises with these inmates so that they can interact with them, listen to their stories,” said the anonymous source.

So when can you pack your bags and hop aboard? Highly-placed sources in Tihar Jail told Mail Today that the complex meant for visitors was recently reviewed in June. "The feedback by superintendent-rank officers emphasised that visitors could be kept with inmates of semi-open and open prisons. Also, the proper uniform of the jail must be provided to the visitors and s/he should be kept away from mobile phones and other special facilities," the source said.

While one jail spokesperson said the project is awaiting approval from the state Home Department, another officer said the facility could be a Delhi Tourism initiative.

"Even foreigners want to stay in Tihar for a live experience of Indian jails. The wish will soon be fulfilled," said Sandeep Goel, Director General of Tihar Jail. This prison project is similar to one started in Telangana in 2016, in which visitors can pay Rs 500 to spend a day like a prisoner at the 220-year-old Sangareddy Prison. Except this programme doesn’t allow you to interact with the real inmates, whereas the Tihar one most likely will. Once locked down, the Tihar experience could actually have immense international tourism potential.

Conversion: $1 = Rs 71.2.

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