The Making of Jail Biryani
There have been precedents of prisons preparing and selling food to the outside world, but Kerala has a new item on its takeaway menu—biryani. Called Freedom Biryani, it was pioneered by the Viyyur Central Jail in Thrissur. Recently, the central jail in Thiruvananthapuram has also started selling the dish. Both have attained bestseller status.
Alexander Jacob, ADGP of Jail Administration, says, “In 2011, there had been a debate in the Kerala Assembly on the escalating prices of food items in hotels. It led to the idea of making food in jails using the labour force of prisoners. On an experimental basis, we started the production of chappatis in Viyyur Central prison. It was a grand success with 35,000 chappatis a day being sold there.”
The making and distribution of biryani started last year. Despite the success of other items, the jail authorities were reluctant to add biryani because of the logistics. “There are 36 [ingredients] used in it. We have to account for every one of them. That was the reason officers in other jails were reluctant. But we were ready to take up the challenge,” says MK Vinod, superintendent of Viyyur jail. About 500 packets of biryani are sold at its food sales counter every day at Rs 60 each.
Chappati, chicken curry, egg curry and vegetable curry are other prisoner-made dishes on offer. Altogether, the Prison Department of Kerala makes an annual Rs 13 crore selling food. A prisoner who does jobs related to cooking and food processing gets Rs 112 a day.
-- Text by Shahina KK