After netting a handsome revenue of Rs 6.75 crore in nine months through food-making venture, prisons in Kerala are planning to diversify into more cooking products like cakes, 'pappad' and footwear with an aim of fruitfully engaging prisoners and selling these items to the common man at affordable prices.
Starting with a modest investment for buying kitchen tools and harnessing the labour of prisoners, it was initially chapati-chicken curry that clicked in the Kerala market.
According to a top Prison Department official, the prison food business posted an impressive turnover of Rs 6.75 crore in the first nine months of this year and is expected to touch about Rs 10 crore by the end of March.
"More than the profits, we draw greater satisfaction from the service we are rendering to the poor and needy by supplying them food at cheaper rates and gainfully engaging the prisoners," Alexander Jacob, ADGP (Prison), said.
Six jails in the state-- three of them central prisons in Thrissur, Kannur and Thiruvananthapuram and three district jails in Kollam, Ernakulam and Kozhikode - have together netted the amount by selling chapatis and chicken curry, idli and sambar and adding cakes as the festival season fare.
When Kerala Prison Department ventured into the food business, the sole model before it was the food-making unit of Tihar Jail in Delhi, which sold about of 1.5 crore chapatis and 20 lakh packets of chicken curry last year.
Though figures may vary each day, an average of 1.12 lakh chapatis and thousands of packets of chicken and vegetable curry, prepared by prisoners, are sold out daily now in Kerala.
What made the business successful is the cheaper price of the jail dishes which are sold in counters before the prisons and also taken out in vehicles to spots like important government hospital premises.
While hotels charge Rs 75-90 for a plate of chicken curry and Rs 7-8 for one chapati, the jail chicken-chapati combine costs just Rs 30.
It was after the chicken-chapati clicked that prison authorities started dishing out idli-sambar, the most common breakfast combination of south Indians. Adding variety, the prisons also added chicken chilly to their menu and will be coming out with spicy biriyani soon.
Encouraged by the demand for their products, prisons are now planning to foray into new ventures like making of cake and `pappadż and footwear to be sold at cheaper prices.
"We began the chapati-chicken curry enterprise on an experimental