Indian TV channel shows prisoners pulling plow
The Associated Press
An Indian state government has ordered an inquiry into a report that prison inmates were forced to pull a field plow, an official said Monday.
The footage aired by Sahara Times television last week showed about a dozen prisoners pulling a plow inside the prison grounds in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi. It also showed a policeman smoking a cigarette in the background.
Prison authorities denied the report.
"Why would we force jail inmates to plow the field? We have our own tractors and use them for agricultural purposes," Ajay Upadhaya, a prison official, told the Associated Press on Monday.
The government of Uttar Pradesh state, where Varanasi is located, has ordered an inquiry into the report, said Satish Chandra, the area's top administrator.
Varanasi is 185 miles (300 kilometers) southeast of the state capital Lucknow.
A local rights group, the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, said the residents of a village outside the prison walls had seen the inmates being used to plow the field and alerted the television channel.
"It was just a kind of forced labor that is against the jail manual," said Lenin Raghuvanshi, the group's convener.
Prisoners in India work while serving their sentences. Their jobs usually involve carpentry, weaving, and kitchen and farm work, for which they are paid.