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Lavanya Bahuguna

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Read How This Rug Company Is Weaving A New Life For The Inmates Of Jaipur & Bikaner Jails

  • IWB Post
  •  July 13, 2019

We recently interacted with Jaipur-based carpet-weaving company Jaipur Rugs, which believes that real success comes from generosity with which one is able to share with the less privileged. 

Nand Kishore ji Chaudhary set-up Jaipur Rugs in 1999. Today, it’s a family-run business wherein all the Chaudhary-kids are assisting their father to grow a holistic work environment. In the past, the company has won accolades for promoting handcraft and advocating for traditional weaving techniques, without inclusion of machines. This way, they’ve been able to provide employment to many underprivileged rug-weaving artisan-families from across India. To be precise, it’s more than 40,000 craftsmen from 600 villages in 5 states. Adding another feather to their cap is this project by their team that’s committed to designing a new life for the inmates of Jaipur and Bikaner jails in Rajasthan.

Under the ‘Prison Project,’ Jaipur Rugs is conducting skill-development workshops, through which inmates are encouraged to learn the colorful art of carpet-making so that they can start afresh and lead a better, financially-independent life after they serve their sentence.

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IWB discussed ‘The Prison Project’ with Mr. NK Chaudhary to understand his vision behind the idea.

Excerpts below:

What made you initiate this project and when did it finally come to reality?

The project was started in September 2018 and hopefully, is going to be a long-term mission of Jaipur Rugs. We took this step to create a society where equality, justice, and peace prevail through socio-economic development. The key aim is to provide opportunities for all, with the insurgent mission to serve as a social innovator that dares to go where others refuse to tread.

Did you face any obstacle while approaching the Jaipur Central Jail and Bikaner Central Jail authorities while seeking a legal permission?

Fortunately, the project had a very smooth approval process because the authorities could see the tremendous value it would bring to the lives of the inmates.

How many inmates are you training at the moment?

There are around 80 inmates in total in both the jails.

Share about the workshop curriculum.

There is no fixed curriculum as such. We have a permanent trainer at the jail and anyone who wishes to learn the art of making hand-woven rugs can simply join the classes and be a part of the project.

How did you break the ice with your students?

We kept our talks transparent. In the initial days, we spent quality time with them explaining the project and listening to their doubts. Our representatives promised them continuous work, timely payment, and regular raw material supply if they agreed to join the workshop. Once it started and they saw for themselves that the work was running smoothly, and the company was delivering what it promised, they gradually began to trust us. From 10, we’ve grown to 100 students in no time.

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Tell us about the positive changes you’ve noticed in the inmates. Are they making new friends and learning about team-building?

So far, many projects designed for the inmates lack creativity and fulfillment. The work that is given to inmates lacks backward and forward linkages leading to under-utilization of potential, which ultimately leads to an unwillingness to work. Jaipur Rugs taps into this latent potential by using its socio-economic development model and thereby, conducts training and workshops for them to provide forward market linkages for their hard labor. It also instills mindfulness and offers holistic health support to the inmates, hence giving them means of sustained livelihood. I must say that the inmates are pouring their heart and creativity into the carpet designs.

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How many carpets have they designed so far?

We already have 3 carpets in Jaipur Jail and 18 in Bikaner Jail ready.

Which one of these is close to your heart?

It has to be the rug named ‘Udaan.’ Udaan, which translates to Flight in English, is a reflection of free-spirited thoughts, hopes, and beliefs of its creator. The weaver weaved lines that have no absolute connection with each other and are longing towards freedom, at least I feel so. He also weaved kites on his rug, which symbolize the freedom that he dreams of. Freedom that will make him independent one day.

This rug was created by Kamlesh, a 34-year-old man, who’s been in the Central Jail for the past eight years now. When he got introduced to the process of rug weaving, he got really amused and decided to learn it to the core. “Weaving keeps me busy and helps me stay positive,” he often tells me.

Are these special carpets available at your showroom?

They will be eventually available at all our stores and even online.

Will you be naming and honoring this collection?

We already have a category called ‘Artisans Original,’ wherein the weaver is given a free-hand to design the pattern on the rug. It comes straight from their heart and has got no formal blueprints from our side. I think we‘ll put the ‘Prison Project’ work under this section, as well, since the inmates are the real designers of these rugs. They are, in fact, carving their names on each rug they’re creating.

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Do you plan to recruit these inmates after they are released?

Definitely, we are open to exploring that.

Before we end this conversation, let’s touch upon the most crucial and beautiful aspect of this project. We were told that 25% of the sales of these rugs will go to the concerned victim’s family. Tell us a little about this.

While the prison inmates are trained in rug weaving and production, their efforts are getting appreciated globally and the profits are directly going to their respective families. To add more value to it, 25% of the earned income is contributed to the victim’s family, as well. The involved inmates know about the scheme and wholeheartedly support it. We’re also very thankful to Mr. Rakesh Mohan (Jail Superintendent), Jaipur Central Jail, for his support in execution of this plan.

(picture source: Jaipur Rugs)

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