"God gave us limbs to help people, not to chop off the limbs of others."

Coming from A Muraly, the words in the headline above carry extra weight. This NGO leader was once an angry young man who spent six years behind bars, including stints in solitary confinement.

Astro Ulagam recently caught up with the founder of the "Thamilar Uthavum Karangal", which currently has about 700 members nationwide, including former convicts, who like Muraly, have turned over a new leaf.

The NGO's members carry wheelchair-bound people up the 272 stairs of the Batu Caves temple annually, and also donate food, cash and necessities to orphanages and homes for the elderly. Muraly also gives talks at schools on the importance of staying off crime.

The high number of crimes involving Indians today bothers the father of two.

"Addressing this is a three-pronged approach. One, the government must prevent the future generation (youth) from getting involved in crime. Two is rehabilitating criminals who are already in prison for minor crimes, and three, is giving a second chance to criminals who have been released from prison and want to seek employment opportunities," he says, adding that the current system does not allow much rehabilitation in prison.

"For instance, a youth goes to jail for a minor offence, and he's placed in custody together with seasoned criminals. There, he does not learn how to stay off crime, but gains contacts and learns the tricks of the trade instead."

Without much guidance or counselling in prison, convicts often find themselves being drawn back into crime upon release, he says.

Get to the root of the problem

Cracking down on the easy availability of alcohol could help stem the problem, believes Muraly.

"We see alcohol being sold openly at round-the-clock convenience stores. There is no indication of time limit set on the sales, or requirement for identification of purchasers to know their age.

"Alcohol can fuel violence and lead to crimes. Perhaps limiting the alcohol-selling time at such outlets can contribute in the reduction of such cases," says the teetotaler.

The other steps are addressing the statelessness issue faced by the Indians, and reducing reliance on foreigners to give more job opportunities for locals, he suggests.

Gov't has not done enough

According to him, reducing crime takes the concerted effort of many parties.

"It starts from home. Parents play a big part in making sure their kids are not mixing with the wrong crowd.

"Schools can teach pupils that crime does not pay, and the government plays a role when youths are involved in crime.

"For instance, if a youth commits a minor crime like stealing, he or she should be subjected to community service, rather than imprisonment, so that they learn the folly of their ways. The focus should be on rehabilitation, not punishment. Sometimes, punishing will only drive a person further towards anger, vengeance and further immorality."

Citing the increasing number of Indians in prison, Muraly says the government has not "done enough" to address the problem.

"When I was placed in Pulau Jerejak in the year 1993, there were 90 convicts, 45 of whom were Chinese, 44 Indians and 1 Malay.

"Five years later, after the convicts there were relocated to Simpang Renggam, there were 500 convicts - 300 of whom were Indians," he recalls.

"The staggering rise of this number should have triggered the government to focus on the involvement of Indians in crime."

Pakatan Harapan has to fulfil the pledges made in its manifesto if it wants to win the next general election, he says.

"The sizeable number of Indian leaders in the current government should each be tasked to handle issues with crime, alcoholism, statelesness and so on," he pointed out.

"I have had people calling me to solve their issues. My earnest hope is for the government to start paying more attention to Indian woes."

This is the second of Astro Ulagam's two-part interview with Muraly. You can read the first one here.