Millennium Post

No happy ending at Shimla Book café, inmates told to pack-up

Shimla: Some success stories never see a happy ending, no matter how glorious these maybe.

That's what BJP- led Shimla Municipal Corporation has done to bring the curtain down on iconic 'Book Café' -- first of its kind experiment in the country.

The citizens, tourists and Shimla enthusiasts walking into 'Book café' two days later, will never be greeted by well-dignified gentlemen Jai Chand and Yog Raj, both life term convicts, who had become the face of Shimla's book café, almost globally. Top new organisations like BBC, national and international print and electronic media had run stories about trending change in Prisons' reforms. The Prisons and Correctional services department had taken charge of the Book café and brought four inmates – a life term convictism, out of the jails' four walks to run the venture two days back.

The Municipal Corporation has decided to hand over the property to a businessman and ran it as a profit-making business model.

"We have received a letter from the Municipal Corporation informing about the privatisation process of the Book Café. The department of prisons has been told to vacate the property by Thursday as it will go to hands of Brijender Singh Chandel, highest bidder," Somesh Goyal, Director General of Police (Prisons) told Millennium Post.

Goyal had won laurels for his initiative to transform the prisons into one of India's experiment on jails reforms and generating skilful jobs for the life term and other convicts within and outside high walls of the jails.

He wrote on his Facebook wall: "Curtain comes down for Shimla Book Café. Prisons department of Himachal will no longer be running the book cafe. It passes on to a businessman. Shimla Book Cafe became a worldwide icon of inmate rehabilitation and an innovative step that other states are considering following. Sadly, the icon is set to fall in the next two days." Equally disappointed sounded Shimla's literary fraternity, which had rolled a red-carpet for poets and writers to holding regular 'sammelans' and meets in its fore-lawns and inside.

"There were two things which made Book café popular internationally. One well-trained prisoner running it and secondly a venue for literary meets in Shimla. We don't think inducted businessmen will have same social spirit in running it. The prisoners have to pack-up now," S R Harnote, a noted writer and poet said after meeting Commissioner Municipal Corporation on Tuesday.

The prisoners some weeks back had also written a letter to Chief Justice of the High Court seeking Court's interventions.

"As we say goodbye to the Book cafe, I thank thousands of visitors whom we have served with all humility. They were a big support to us, and we felt highly encouraged with their comments responses, phone calls and visitors' book comments appreciating our DGP Somesh Goyal and us," said Jai Chand. Located at 'Takka Bench', a pre-Independence vintage point next to the town's iconic Ridge, the Shimla Book-Café had remained a must-visit landmark in past two years.

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