Tickling the tastebuds: Surat jail inmates switch over from cigarette to shrikhand

Have you ever seen a bunch of tough,burly prisoners sitting demurely together,dribbling ice creams,munching chocolate bars...

Written by Kamaal Saiyed | Surat | Published:January 4, 2009 3:28 am

Have you ever seen a bunch of tough,burly prisoners sitting demurely together,dribbling ice creams,munching chocolate bars,eating cheese spreads like all nice boys,gulping up their shrikhand,and slurping on goodies made of pure ghee?

You can,if you come to Surat. The district sub-jail authorities have begun providing milk-made products like chocolate bars,cheese,ghee,flavoured ice creams,shrikhand and other things to prisoners,beginning this year.

Prisoners can buy these from the jail store 24×7,at suitably subsidised rates. The idea is to wean them away from harmful stuff like tobacco,and make them fans of milk products.

Incidentally,the sub-jail in Surat is also famous for its bhajiyas,which is widely sought after not just by the people inside,but also outsiders.

Most undertrials and convicts usually have to forget the taste of things like ice cream and chocolates and other milk products once the prison doors slam. The jail staff realised this and hit upon this idea,launching it on January 1.

At present,there are 999 male and 31 female inmates in the jail and they use the special jail currency (coupons) to buy things like soap,toothpaste and other stuff of daily use. This currency comes in denominations of rupee one,two and five and are given to them in the place of ordinary currency notes.

The jail authorities said they saw too many inmates fall prey to tobacco addiction and came to the conclusion that the antidote is milk products like ice creams,sweet curds,chocolates,candies,cheese,ghee and shrikhand among others.

Jail Superintendent M D Doshi said: “We contacted Amul and discussed the idea. The company gave us a deep freezer free of cost and agreed to provide milk products to us at distributors’ rates. The prisoners are happy and the response has been good.”

He added: “We have also started a bhajiya outlet in the jail premises from where common people can purchase the stuff. It has been a hit too. We actually made a profit of Rs 3.17 lakh selling bhajiyas to the public in the last 62 days we have opened the outlet. The bhajiyas are made by the prisoners themselves.”

Senior Jailor M L Rathod said it has benefited the prisoners a lot. “The prisoners make about Rs 800 and most of them send it to their families by money order. Depending on how much they send home,we provide them a proportionate amount of jail currency,” he said.

There’s also a therapeutic side to the jail’s chocolate and ice cream push. Rathod said: “When the prisoners fall sick and have to take strong medicines,they usually need to have milk. Most convicts don’t drink milk,so we thought milk products would help. In fact,we have decided to offer them as much of it as they want.”

Ashok Patel,a prisoner told Newsline that this is really a ‘yummy’ move. “I have been inside for the last five years and I use to gorge on ice creams and shrikhand before landing up here. We are very happy to have these. At least,we too can enjoy the taste of milk products like the outside the jail.”

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