Madurai Central Prison in Tamil Nadu has cooked up a recipe to reduce corruption among its officials: allow prisoners to purchase mutton curry.
Deputy Inspector General VH Mohammed Haneefa’s logic is simple: “Prisoners crave non-vegetarian and home-made food, as they may not like what is served inside prison. Often, they bribe officials to get them biryani from outside or allow in food brought by a relative. If the same is available here, corruption is reduced.’’
The prison recently introduced an array of food options for inmates at reasonable prices. They can buy mutton gravy at Rs 60 per plate from the prison canteen, and idli, vada, pongal, dosa and tea at subsidised rates in the morning hours. “Convicts themselves prepare the food, which also gives them a chance to work as cooks once released,” said Haneefa while taking mediapersons on a tour of the premises last week.
But this welfare measure comes with a rider. Sticking to the prison guide book, the officer said, an inmate can buy 100 gm of mutton in a gravy for Rs 60 only once a week, while just the gravy prepared from mutton stock can be bought on other days at Rs 15 per plate. Inmates can also buy a boiled egg once a week for Rs 4.50.
For breakfast, they can buy a plate of four idlis, two dosas, pongal or puri for Rs 15 each, while a vada costs Rs 3.50 and coffee or tea, Rs 2.50 a cup. All items are made on rotation and a food card given to inmates ensures that no cash is exchanged at the counter.
Besides being a check on corruption, this measure also reduces the possibility of mobile phones, chargers, SIM cards and even hacksaw blades getting into the prison along with smuggled food.
The canteen has been running for two months now and the response has been overwhelming, say officials. “We will increase the number of items slowly as we don’t want prisoners to start putting on weight and enjoying their stay,” one official joked.