Ever thought what life is like within the walls of Asia's biggest prison housing notorious criminals such as Indian Mujahideen founder Yasin Bhatkal and gangster Chhota Rajan? Your curiosity might cost you around Rs 2,000 if Tihar authorities have their way.
No, you do not have to commit a crime to get in or secure bail for release. But if a jail tourism project designed by Tihar authorities sees the light of the day, you might find yourself in prison robes, sleeping on the floor, getting up early in the morning and grinding wheat. Also, cell phones are prohibited.
Earlier, there were reports that you can book a cell in Tihar by paying only Rs 500 and spend a day in jail. However, after receiving feedback from senior officials of the jail, an upgraded plan is underway to give visitors a real-life experience rather than an isolated room.
Spread across 400 acres and housing around 16,000 prisoners, including convicted and under trials, Tihar is the most populated prison in India.
Apart from Bhatkal and Rajan, it also houses gangster Neeraj Bawana and don-turned-politician Mohammad Shahabuddin. Infamous serial killer Charles Sobhraj was also lodged here.
Highly-placed sources in Tihar Jail said that in June, a review of the complex meant for visitors was done. "The feedback by superintendent-rank officers emphasised that visitors could be kept with inmates of semi-open and open prisons. Also, 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.
Also, the complex will be huge and it will have all security features to ensure that visitors do not use the facilities, as they will be staying with inmates.
"One of the superintendents also suggested that 'phaansi kothi' must be made in the complex. Also, strict rules as already being followed by inmates must be imposed on the visitors as well so that they don't feel the stay as pleasure."
"The visitor has to spend a typical day as spent by any other prisoner in Tihar. They have to sleep on the floor, get up early in the morning, cook, grind wheat, clean the premises, participate in activities such as yoga, meditation, painting, etc. Time-to-time checking of the visitors will also be done," an official said.
"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," the source said.
"It is important for visitors to share the same premises with these inmates so that they can interact with them, listen to their stories."
There is nothing to be surprised. Foreign tourists are taking cheap flights to India for a similar prison tourism programme, 'Feel the Jail', in Telangana.
Sangareddy Prison, a 220-year-old heritage jail nearly 70 km from Hyderabad International Airport, entertains guests with a unique experience of the typical life in Indian prisons.
At Tihar Jail, the guests will be treated to the food cooked by prisoners though they will not be able to interact with them and use their mobile phones or other electronic devices for security reasons. What one-day stay in Tihar Jail rooms will cost the guests is yet to be decided on.
A jail spokesperson said the project file has been sent to the state Home Department for approval before being opened for tourists. Another jail officer said the facility could be part of Delhi Tourism.
Sandeep Goel, DG (Prisons) said that jail authorities received several requests to visit the prison. "Even foreigners want to stay in Tihar for a live experience of Indian jails. The wish will soon be fulfilled," he said.
The Telangana government had started a similar programme in 2016. Tourists there did not share the walls with prisoners. Sangareddy, which had been converted into a museum in June 2016, was opened for visitors as part of the state government's tourism drive for Rs 500 per day.