Taking the initiative a step forward, the police department has decided to open up a network of 15 outlets in the district.

How inmates of a Kerala jail created a respected food brand called Freedom
news Wednesday, April 27, 2016 - 20:41

As evident as the irony is, the word ‘freedom’ began to give fresh hope to the inmates of Viyyur central prison in Thrissur.

In 2011, the police department started an initiative in which the inmates set up food making units in the prison and sold the food items at a food counter set up at the main gate of the prison. This venture was started to instill confidence in the minds of the prisoners.

Though it started off with making chapattis and a curry, five years since those perfectly round chapattis started rolling out of the prison, ‘Freedom’ has turned into a respected brand, known for good food at reasonable rates.

Taking the initiative a step forward, the police department has decided to open up a network of 15 outlets in the district. The idea is at a nascent stage, with discussions being held to determine the plan of action. Out of the 800 inmates, more than sixty people are involved in the food making unit, which has grown from a single chapathi making unit and diversified into multiple units making chicken biryani, bakery items and idlis. On an average, around 30,000 chapathis are sold at the counter on a daily basis.

Pointing out that the venture was started to change the possible hatred towards society that many prisoners have after being released, S. Santhosh, Superintendent of the prison said, “We started off with this venture with the intention of changing this mindset. Now that we have successfully run it for the past five years, it is gives us confidence to take it forward.”

The beneficiaries of the new outlets would be the families of inmates who are below poverty line, mainly the women members of the family.

“Apart from educational aids that the children of convicts receive, no other measures are taken to help the convict’s family members. Often, after the male member of the family goes to prison, the responsibility of running the house goes to the woman of the family, who in most cases, is not skilled to do jobs. Therefore, women members of convict’s families would be identified and employed at these outlets to ensure that they can maintain a good standard of living”, the Superintendent said.

He pointed out that though limited in number, there are measures in place to help the convict’s family. However, no such measures exist to help the victim’s family in case of murders and other crimes, in which the victim is the only earning member. Through these proposed outlets, the police department aims to extend help to both the victim’s and the convict’s families, who are below the poverty line.

The police department is in talks with the local administration and Canara bank, to explore the possibility of expanding the venture beyond the confines of the prison.

The prices of the food items are not only affordable to the public, but have remained unchanged since inception. “Not increasing the prices of the food products also means the expenditure at our end goes up. This venture does not get any subsidies and all the materials are bought from the open market. A month back, we increased the wages of inmates involved with the food making unit to Rs. 200 per day, which is an increase of around eighty rupees."

 

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