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Maharashtra’s first eatery run by prisoners launched in Pune

Representational image. The restaurant run by prisoners of Yerawada Open Prison in Pune will serve misal pav, vada pav, samosa, roti, rice and hot beverages

A prison is not merely a place where a person is punished for his or her wrongdoing. The place needs to reform and prepare the inmate for life outside once released and doing precisely this is Maharashtra’ Department of Prisons and Correctional Services.

This Department on Wednesday started a restaurant that is being managed completely by 15 life term convicts from the Yerawada Open Prison in Pune. The design of the restaurant structure, its interiors, seating arrangement, and kitchen have all be done by inmates as well as its construction.

This is one of the first of the chain of such restaurants that are going to be launched across all prisons in the State. These eateries will be started under the initiative Shrunkhala which means series or chain and all these outlets will be managed by inmates and cater to common people.

This first in the series has been started right next to Yerawada Open prison and its target customers are the large working population at business hubs and commercial centres in the area. In the beginning a staff of 15 inmates – seven for kitchen and eight for other services – will man the outlet. With business growing this number will be increased to 25. Instead of their usual prison uniform these inmates wear T-shirts and pants.

To begin with the outlet will serve the favourite Maharashtra snacks like misal pav, vada pav, kanda bhaji and other items including pulao, samosa, vegetable curry, roti, and rice. Hot beverages, too, form a part of the menu.

With passage of time, the authorities want to introduce some quintessential Marathi dishes and some which will be preferred by calorie conscious customers.

Among those chosen for the outlet, some already know cooking and have worked in eateries while others have volunteered for the work.

To provide a chance to everyone, the staff will be rotated so that everyone interested gets a chance to run the outlet.

The earnings from the outlet will go to the welfare fund for the inmates and those working at the outlets will get the stipulated daily wages that they get for their work in prison.

According to Amitabh Gupta, Additional Director General of Police and the State Prison Department chief, the opportunity to work at the restaurants will enable the inmates to prepare for the world outside when they complete their sentence. It will not only give them the required confidence to become part of the mainstream but also acquire new skills and refresh and hone old ones.

The Open Prison’s farm and dairy provide a portion of vegetables, grains and milk used at the restaurant while the remaining comes from outside.

Apart from restaurants, the prisoners also run a laundry facility, salon, vehicle service centre and a community hall.

Also read: Puducherry Central Jail shows the way – prisoners are offered farming, animal husbandry and arts to reform