Take 5: “Biryani never part of jail food, no chicken too since Emergency”

After the killing of 8 SIMI activists, the MP CM sparked off a debate when he said “We will have to evolve a system for quick trials. Some people even get chicken biryani in jail.” Is chicken biryani actually served in jails? DIG (Prisons) R S Vijayvargiya, who retired a few months ago, clears the air.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Updated: November 13, 2016 12:14 am
bhopal, bhopal jailbreak, simi activists killed, bhopal simi activists killed, chicken biryani bhopal jail, shivraj singh chauhan, india news, indian express, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan sparked off a debate when he said “some people even get chicken biryani in jail,” a day after the SIMI jailbreak.

1. What is on the menu in  Madhya Pradesh jails?
It’s usually poha, chana or dalia for breakfast and dal, roti, sabzi and chawal for lunch and dinner. Prisoners can buy packed namkeen and, occasionally, samosa, pakoda or jalebi from the jail canteen. Poori, sabzi and sweets such as halwa are served on festivals.

2. Do prisoners get chicken biryani?
No. It was never part of the food served in jails. In the late 1960s and ’70s, ‘special category prisoners’ were served chicken, but it was stopped after the Emergency. After that, prisoners were only allowed to eat it if the jail doctor prescribed it.

3. So they get to eat it on their doctor’s advice?
Not any longer. This practice was stopped after 1996, when jail authorities  realised that it was being misused. After that, eggs continued to be served  on medical advice but even that  practice was stopped in 2000.

4. Is there any other way prisoners can eat want they want?
Yes. Relatives of prisoners who visit them in jail can bring the food they desire. Of course, it’s entirely the discretion of the jail superintendent or jailer whether to allow such food. But they usually allow such food in, especially during festivals.

5. Are there quality checks on food?
Yes. Before being served to prisoners, every dish that is cooked for lunch or dinner is brought to the superintendent or jailer in a thali. He is supposed to taste it all. While superintendents or jailers never finish the meal, magistrates who visit jails as part of their duty often do. If they are unhappy about the quality of food, prisoners get to complain through their relatives, when they are produced for trials in courts, or when authorities such as senior jail department officials or magistrates visit the jail.