Thane jail inmates vanish in a huge cloud of flour

Updated: Dec 26, 2017, 19:05 IST | Faisal Tandel

No, they haven't escaped; they've been busy catering to the increased demand for cakes, cupcakes and cookies, whipped out from their bakery on the premises, this festive season

'Tis the season of sweet greetings, and prisoners at Thane Central Jail know this as well as anyone else - they've been working overtime since Christmas Eve to cater to the sky-high demand for goodies they churn out every year from their bakery around this time, with the number of cakes, cupcakes and cookies ordered going through the roof. The biggest order was from Arthur road Jail - 7,250 cupcakes (425 kg).

Cakes and cookies made by Thane jail inmates
Cakes and cookies made by Thane jail inmates

Sweet Jesus!
The inmates have been running the bakery since 2012, started under a rehabilitation initiative launched by state Additional Director General of Police (prisons) Bhushankumar Upadhyay, with demand spiking every Christmas.

While in 2015 Christmas they sold 1,180 kg sponge cake, and last year, 1,381 kg, this festive season, the demand touched 1,606.5 kg, bringing in R2,53,024. With respect to cupcakes, 11,880 pieces were sold in 2015 Christmas and 14,091 in 2016 in the same period; this year, the figure stands at 25,136 pieces, earning them Rs 1,84,750.

Around 12 inmates prepare 500 kg of confectionary items daily, but Christmas is their busiest time. The prisoners work under the watchful eye of a bakery instructor, whipping up plum cakes, sponge cakes, vanilla and pineapple cakes, cupcakes, etc. The inmates are split into three categories - unskilled (paid Rs 45/day), half-skilled (Rs 50) and skilled (Rs 55).

The USP
Superintendent of Police, Thane Central Jail, N B Vayachal confirmed the rise in demand, saying various charitable trusts and foundations placed advance orders for Christmas.

Orders also came from other prisoners in Arthur Road Jail, the women's prison in Byculla, Aadharwadi Jail in Kalyan, Taloja Jail and Thane Mental Hospital, as well as Mantralaya babus. "For the last two years, we have been getting a huge response from outsiders, especially NGOs and trusts based in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai... and we see to it that we meet the demand in time," said Vayachal.

Saying that the aim behind the bakery was to rehabilitate the inmates, who are paid as per their skills, he added that they earned Rs 4,77,374 from the sale of cupcakes, sponge cakes and breads over the weekend. Low pricing, said the SP, was their USP - cupcakes are priced at Rs 7 apiece, sponge cake at Rs 150/kg and pineapple cake at Rs 380/kg.

"With the increase in demand [during Christmas], we have had to make the inmates work double shifts from 7 am to 9 pm. They get their usual breaks in between and are remunerated accordingly. We hope to increase our daily production to meet the steady rise in demand," said Vayachal.

Path to reformation
Nagpur, Nashik and Yerawada jails have similar rehabilitation programmes in place. Inmates not only bake cakes, but also make items of wood and cloth. During his incarceration at Yerawada jail in Pune in the 1993 blasts case, actor Sanjay Dutt was engaged in carpentry work; he made a bamboo chair in 2007.

Rs 4.77 lakh
Earnings from sale of baked goods over this Christmas weekend

1,606 kg
Quantity of sponge cake sold this festive season

25.136
Number of cupcakes sold for Christmas this year

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