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Tinka Tinka Channel: Celebrating A Section Of Society That Is Often Overlooked

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As India celebrates its Covid-19 warriors, there is one section of society that is being overlooked. Dr Vartika Nanda’s recent initiative, Tinka Tinka Jail News is rectifying that, by highlighting the contributions jails are making to the fight against the virus; from making masks and PPE kits to donating food and money.

With this idea of showcasing a different side of prisons, Dr Nanda conceived of this initiative in March when the lockdown began. She turned her vision into reality in May when documentation began, and the stories started airing from June.

How It All Began

Tinka Tinka devoted 51 days to create a series of help and support carried out by inmates. With each story for one to three-minutes documented per day, this enterprise has brought out the world of prisons and their contribution during COVID-19.

Image provided by the author.

The stories are aired once a week, as part of a particular segment on the Tinka Tinka Prison Reforms channel, which began in 2018. This prison reform movement was founded to bridge the gap between jails and the world at large. Through Tinka Tinka Jail News, Dr Nanda is ushering in a new form of constructive journalism, highlighting how jail staff and inmates are helping the world face humanity’s biggest current crisis.

With 51 unique stories highlighting one jail or cause at a time, the channel has become the first YouTube News Channel of its kind, dedicated to delivering inspirational news from prisons across India. With 3,96,223 prisoners lodged across 1400 prisons, it is in the public interest for the Indian populace to see a new facet of jails, not merely as a means of punishment but as a place where reform and rehabilitation can occur with concerted efforts.

The initiative has three underlying objectives:

  • To reveal the historical significance of the concerned prisons,
  • To document the contribution made by inmates to the outside world and;
  • To present a side of prisons that goes unnoticed.

It aims to direct the efforts of Tinka Tinka in bridging the gap between prisons and society during the lockdown when the common man can relate to the life of an inmate. At this time, inmates too, have very little connection to the outside world, other than telephone technology, their only solace and source of comfort.

Female prisoners sit inside their cell in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata. Credit: Reuters

This initiative is bringing together two worlds, facilitating a window into the world of prisons. Due to the existing Covid-19 threat, visitations have been stopped in most of the jails across India.

The Situation Of Indian Jails

During this process, Tinka Tinka also engaged itself in serious research. In collaboration with the respective state prison departments, Dr Nanda surveyed jails in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The jails selected were overcrowded, had women inmates and were among the largest in their respective states.

With 15,790 and 15,698 inmates surveyed in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh respectively, the information and stories gathered, bring forward a representative picture of prison life during the pandemic.

The channel has featured a variety of stories, from several types of jails such as central, district, sub-jails and women jails. Highlighting the names of the concerned Superintendents and other senior personnel to give them their due credit, the channel has weaved together a detailed tapestry comprising stories of change, support and transformation.

A few stories also revolve around special days like the Yoga Day and the World Music Day, with Sundays are dedicated to a human interest story, apart from creative expressions of inmates over the years, through the Tinka Tinka series. The channel has strongly highlighted the stories of inmates engaged in small-scale efforts of manufacturing masks, sanitisers, PPE kits and other means to help the world.

For instance, the inmates lodged in the District Jail in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh made the maximum number of masks among all the jails of Uttar Pradesh, stitching more than 5000 masks a day. Inmates have made 80,000 masks of District Jail, Agra, Uttar Pradesh.  Similarly, 40 men and 13 women inmates in Central Jail, Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh are involved in making 1500 masks every day.

But, Why Do Their Stories Matter?

This practice is being carried out in 52 jails in Madhya Pradesh. Inmates in a Rajasthan prison took the initiative to donate a portion of their food to the needy people outside. Inmates of Model Jail, Chandigarh donated Rs. 1,11,000/- to the Corona Relief Fund, a gargantuan sum that highlights how much prisons have contributed during these trying times. An inmate of the District Jail in Pilibhit, Anupam Trivedi, made several paintings on Corona and has now created an art gallery to spread awareness about the virus.

Image provided by the author.

These heart-warming stories were being shared silently among a small group of prison officers and inmates and were kept away from public glare. Now, thanks to this novel approach, the world too can see these wholesome efforts, carried out not for pomp or show, but only for the sake of humanity.

Upon the completion of 51 days, the bouquet of these stories has become a gesture of tribute to inmates and the jail staff. It is a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit and the bond that binds us all, especially in a time like this, when the world needs to come together, more than ever before.

Tinka Tinka has previously published two books Tinka Tinka Dasna (2016, 2020) and Tinka Tinka Madhya Pradesh (2018) depicting life in jail through similar heart-touching real narratives. The stories now air on the channel, after being edited by Riya Verma, with the montage played by Nitin Chowdhary. They play a part in the larger Tinka Tinka movement by Dr Nanda, bringing prisons and the general populace closer, one story at a time.

The YouTube channel can be visited here

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