International Chess Federation
Wednesday, 26 Jun 2024 14:50
Parivartan: Transforming lives through chess

From June 19-21, FIDE and IndianOil Corporation, in collaboration with the All India Chess Federation and the Ministry of Justice of India, organized the second in-person Chess for Freedom Conference in Pune, India. It was a fitting location for the event as Yerwada Central Jail, a high-security prison in Pune and the largest prison in South Asia, housing over 5000 prisoners, is also famous for its chess players.

In October 2023, the Yerawada Central Prison team won the gold medal at the Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners. The conference attendees had a chance to learn how these impressive results have been reached since the chess project was first introduced to Yerwada inmates in 2021.

"Parivartan - Prison to Pride" is a pioneering initiative designed to empower the most disadvantaged and vulnerable group of people - prison inmates. Launched in 2021 under the leadership of IndianOil's Chairman Mr. Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, "Parivartoan" has grown significantly, impacting 4,100 inmates in 83 prisons, including Yerwada.

"IndianOil has been leading a number of social stewardship programs across the country. "Parivartan" initiative aims to build confidence and improve the well-being of prison inmates through sports. The program is in sync with IndianOil's core value of care and will complement our ongoing initiative of employing prison inmates and people who have completed their time in prison as customer attendants at our fuel stations," says Mr Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, Chairman of IndianOil.

IndianOil, in collaboration with state police prison departments, provides coaches to train inmates in various sports, including chess, badminton, table tennis, kho-kho and basketball. The chess program boasts renowned coaches like GMs Abhijit Kunte and Surya Sekhar Ganguly, who emphasize the positive impact of sports in channeling energy and transforming lives.

The support for Parivartan has extended beyond the oil giant, with renowned sports personalities contributing to this initiative. The chess courses in Indian jails are supervised by experienced coaches, including GMs Abhijit Kunte and Surya Sekhar Ganguly, WGMs Eesha Karavade, Soumya Swaminathan, Padmini Rout, to name a few. Coaches involved in the program stress its significance, noting that channelling the energy of individuals in prison through sports can positively transform their lives.

"It's heartening to witness the success and positive changes Parivartan brings about. Being a part of such initiatives fills me with immense pride," says GM Abhijit Kunte.

In 2023, following Parivartan’s success, the "Nayi Disha" program extended benefits to over 2200 young inmates at 45 Juvenile correction centers across India, building sportsmanship and camaraderie in the process. In October 2023, the Children Correctional Home team from Bhopal, India, achieved a remarkable victory by securing the gold medal in the Youth Category at the Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners.

Coaching has also been introduced in women's prisons, beginning with Tihar Jail, and extended to 15 juvenile centers for girls. These efforts have introduced chess to over 6,000 inmates across 128 facilities in India.

IndianOil's "Parivartan" and "Nayi Disha" have gained global recognition for their social impact receiving the SportstarAces Chairperson Award 2023 for sports for social good and the prestigious Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards for Thought Leadership. Mr Shrikant Madhav Vaidya was also awarded the "Friend of FIDE" title. The award recognizes IndianOil's valuable contribution to the FIDE Chess for Freedom program and the promotion of sport as a tool for social transformation in India.

"The mission of the Parivartan project by IndianOil goes beyond the chessboard,” says Arkady Dvorkovich, FIDE President. “It is a testament to the possibilities that lie within us all. It gives the right to a better life and a second chance for everyone. I'd like to express my heartfelt gratitude to IndianOil and all those involved in the project as well as to players taking part in it."

With the 4th Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners approaching (October 8-10), "Parivartan" and "Nayi Disha" students are already preparing to compete for medals in all three sections—men, women, and youth.

To learn more about the Chess for Freedom program and other chess initiatives for prisoners, visit

Text and photos: Anna Volkova