Where there’s a will, there’s a way
The 31 year old Amit Kumar Mishra had spent 13 months in Gurgaon’s Bhondsi jail, when later he was released from the prison. He in his late 20’s was convicted in a false dowry death case in 2013. Immediately after his wife committed suicide (by taking poison) in the first two years of their marriage, he was slapped sections 304 B (dowry death), 498 A (dowry) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on him by his in-laws. Before he could get out of his traumatic days, he was brought to the jail custody. His ailing parents spent three months in prison and he was put behind the bars without getting any legal access for the first three months.
During his initial months behind the bars, he observed unacceptable leakages in the prison management system. With his intentions to get a proper system for both prisoners and prison officials and his interest in technology, engineer Amit Kumar Mishra created a software called Phoenix. According to his plans with the designing of the software, he intended to increase the efficiency of the prison management system and make life of inmates and officials easier and more productive.
His personal experience in the prison, along with his co-mates made him realise that the inmates barely had any knowledge of the status of their cases running in the court. “At the same time, I also understood that for prison officials too, it was difficult to keep track of hundreds of inmates with no proper mechanism in place,” said Mishra.
His software Phoenix mainly helps in displaying case records of an inmate by his thumb impression, which are pre-recorded to avoid any confusion. The software had an inbuilt system of details of the cases of the inmates facing custody, the current status of their cases, the next date of hearing in the court.
The name of the software designed indigenously by Mishra too was carefully picked. “Phoenix is a mythological bird which rises from the ashes. We too had turned into ashes after getting convicted. And we thought that may be this Phoenix will give us a chance to resurrect ourselves,” Mishra added. For Mishra, his little ray of shine was the former superintendent of the prison. Harinder Singh always motivated him to spend his time in things which will help him get his mind of other things. Singh, on the other hand, credits Mishra and his team for successfully creating and implementing the software. “Ours is the best software across the country. Since they themselves experienced the prison system, they were best suited to implement the software,” said Singh.
Mishra not only concentrated on the software, but also noticed another failure in of money transaction within the prison. According to the prison rule, the authorities were suppose to issue coupons to the inmates for buying products of daily need from the prison canteen. As the coupons were printed with whole numbers, the inmates ended up spending more for what they consumed/purchased. This was becoming a major financial issue for the inmates. Mishra not only identified the issue but also started to put his brain behind rectifying the issue. Majority of the prisoners had to manage in rupees 2,000-3,000 monthly without any financial help from outside. "So I created a retail system where an inmate, with his thumb impression, can buy any product from the canteen and the money will be debited directly from his account.
“As time passed, I realised it was not easy to prove my innocence given the nature of cases slapped on me. The jail superintendent, who was sympathetic to me, told me that the only way to survive was to stay mentally fit. I decided to pursue my case while working on the software,” Mishra added.
In July, 2014, Mishra was acquitted of all charges and by February 2015, he had set up his company ‘Invader Technologies’. His software and its credibility had proved to be path-breaking for prison management and have been installed in all jails in Haryana. Mishra, the brain behind the prison management software with his team of convicts are spearheading the digitisation of the 19 prisons across the state in what they proudly term as a Prison Prisoner Partnership (PPP) model.
His techy-in built personality was recognised at a different tangent when a letter dated September 17, 2015 was addressed to all states and union territories, where, the Ministry of Home Affairs had recommended incorporation of prison management software and Pheonix was mentioned in a list of suitable options along with three other software.
It was not only Haryana but there were talks that Arunachal Pradesh was also expected to install this software. “We are already in talks with Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Assam,” Mishra said.
Once a resident of DLF Phase II in Gurgaon, Mishra has now moved to government quarters in the Bhondsi Jail campus. His company is working on other software that will help prisons function better. Though trying to leave his past behind, Mishra still wonders why his wife committed suicide. He also has no idea why his in-laws, who treated him like a son, implicated him in a false case.
“I still do not know why my wife took her own life. If my in-laws had lost their daughter, I had also lost my wife. After I got acquitted, I wanted to meet the Investigation Officer in my case. He initially refused to meet me, but eventually did. I asked him if he thought I was guilty. He told me he always knew I was innocent. But the circumstances were not in my favour,” Mishra said. Digitalisation not only meant connecting machines with wires, but in its true essence it means linking the management of the prison and prison inmates in a proper and secure manner, while ensuring the exchange of data, reducing the communication gap and minimising the paper work.
We no more want the jail to function under an archaic system of British Era where everything was manually conducted. This is not possible when the floating population of the prison keeps on fluctuating and increasing. At present there are around 2,000 prison mates in Bhondsi jail of Gurgaon. I can only credit the former Gurgaon Jail superintendent Harinder Singh for giving me and my team a chance to show their worth. Mishra has been setting an example for the prisoners. There are many more like Mishra, who have set their life goals very optimistically. A girl, who didn’t wished to be named had recently completed her course in Hospitality and is currently working as a special correspondent at The Grand Continental in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.