Kerla prisoners roll out roti and chicken curries

Kochi: Pampering the taste buds of Keralites are some unusual chefs-prisoners, who are rolling out chapaties and preparing chicken and vegetarian curries for those outside the four walls of the jails.

Presently three prisons in the state-Poojapura central jail in Thiruvananthapuram, Viyoor central jail in Thrissur and the Kozikode district jail have started the venture, which is running successfully with about 60,000 chapaties being made daily on an average with the help of machines by prisoners, says Chief Welfare Officer, jail department, K A Kumaran.

While Central prison at Thiruvananthapuram markets its chapaties as `Poojapura Chapaties`, Viyoor jail inmates branded their product as `Freedom Chapaties`. There are also plans to start similar ventures in Ernakulam district jail and Kollam jail, Kumaran told PTI. A proposal in this regard would be submitted to the state government soon, he said.

In Poojapura central jail, 40,000 chapaties, besides 3,500 packets of chicken and 500 packets of vegetarian curries are made on an average daily, says B Pradeep, Superintendent, Central Prison.

The demand for these ready-to-eat chapaties are so huge that they are sold in no time, he told PTI. While a packet containing five chapaties and chicken curry is priced at Rs 25, it is Rs 20 for same set with vegetable curry, he said.

The chapaties are ready by 9 AM at the three outlets at Thiruvananthapuram. People queue up to take away the packets, he said, adding the counters are open till 6 PM and fresh chapaties are sent as per demand. Bulk orders are also coming during Sundays which are accepted, he said.

Convicts serving life imprisonment are among those participating in the venture launched by Tamil film Actor-Director Cheran two months ago. Earlier, only chapaties were made but from January 18 the curries were also prepared and sold.
In Poojapura jail, the two chapati making machines costing about Rs 2.5 crore each have been installed.

There was so much enthusiasm among the prisoners that,those from other jails are also keen to come to Poojapura, Pradeep said. There are also plans to start a bakery unit soon for making banana chips and bread. Pradeep said the prisoners at Poojapura have manufactured about 10.5 lakh chapaties in the past two months. During the Christmas season, the prisoners had made star-shaped chapaties and sold them at outlets outside, Pradeep said.

The affordable cost of the product has been the key to the success of the venture. Counters have been set up in front of the entrance of the prison. About 150 prisoners work in different shifts in this exercise.

About 250 kilogram of chicken is needed for making 1,000 plates of curry. About 500 vegetarian curries are prepared using mainly vegetables grown in prison and also sourcing it from government-run vegetable stalls outside. There is demand for 5,000 packets of chicken curries presently, Pradeep said. Kumaran said there are also plans to start a unit for women priosoners at Attakulangara in Thiruvananthapuram for making idlies, chutney and sambar.

During the mandala pooja season, the inmates had provided 10,000 chapaties per day to the Padmanabhaswamy temple authorities to feed the devotees during the sabarimala season.

In Viyoor and Kozhikode prisons about 10,000 chapaties are made each day and sold. Curries are not made. However, during the recently held State School Youth Festival, the prisoners had supplied about 10,000 chapaties a day.

Kumaran said the prison department had written to the government to enhance the wages for those working in chapati making. Prisoners are also engaged in other vocational activities such as carpentry, weaving and masonry. Government furniture is also made in the prisons, Kumaran said.