Sony Pictures Networks India in partnership with India Vision Foundation marked World Music Day (June 25) with the release of a video of The Dhun Project. The Dhun Project has facilitated the opening of music training centres across five large prisons in North India. Through the medium of music (vocal and instrumental), the initiative assists in rehabilitating prison inmates, thereby helping them reintegrate into society once they have served their prison term.

Launched in 2018, the Dhun Project has now impacted nearly 250 inmates at five training centres in UP and Haryana prisons. The first training centre was at the Bhondsi Jail in Gurugram, Haryana, followed by Rothak and Ambala prisons in Haryana, and Dasna and Kasna prisons in Uttar Pradesh.

Special trainers visit the music centres regularly to train the prison inmates. The centres are well equipped with instruments such as drum set, tabla, dholak, harmonium, guitar and electric keyboard. So far, 116 inmates have been trained in vocal music, 105 in instrumental, and 23 in both vocal and instrumental. Apart from fostering a positive environment, the training also equips inmates with a potential source of livelihood.

Responding to queries from CauseBecause, Rajkumar Bidawatka, head of CSR, Sony Pictures Networks India, informs that in the first year of the project the primary focus was to strengthen the collaboration with project beneficiaries – that is, inmates and prison administration. Impact assessment was primarily through informal letters from inmates and interviews of inmates and prison authorities. DGs of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh also expressed their views on the project impact. The second year will focus on consolidation and impact assessment, and based on that, the organisations will decide whether to expand the project.

To inform and educate inmates about the programme, commercial materials such as handouts and posters are used, while a dedicated project coordinator for each prison helps maximise outreach and enrolment. The coordinators are responsible for interacting regularly with new inmates, counselling them to join the programme, and ensuring retention. Performances by master trainers during the in-prison programmes also motivate them by generating interest in the project.

Additionally, the project coordinators professionally counsel the inmates by understanding their issues and linking them with prison authorities for help. To prepare inmates for their reintegration into society, the company has rolled out a separate psychological intervention that is provided at a group as well as individual level.

As per Bidawatka, this project empowers the inmates to leverage music as an additional skill, so that they may have the opportunity to take up music professionally if they wish to do so, post-release.

This video link explains the initiative along with testimonials from stakeholders: