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EXCLUSIVE – Central Jail bakery: Tickle your taste buds with Kashmir prison cakes, cookies

KM/Special Arrangement

Srinagar: Inside Srinagar’s high-security Central Jail, a 21-year-old inmate checks the inventory of a neatly done bakery tuckshop.

A rate list with discounted prices adorns the counter. The inmate who doubles up as shopkeeper politely asks for the order. From bread to biscuits, he runs down through the catalog of products available in the shop. 

KM/Special Arrangement

Welcome to CJ (Central Jail) Bakery.  For the first time, inmates have been allowed to run a bakery inside a high-security prison. Inaugurated in September last year, the bakery has become a most happening place inside the jail premises.

Mostly the security forces and local cops are the customers. But the demand is so huge that force personnel stationed at different areas come to buy cookies and cakes from the CJ Bakery. 

In fact, the concept of turning an infamous prison into a reform center started last year when VK Singh took over as Director-General of Prisons.

There was an inmate who was a baker by profession. When the idea was being toyed, he was roped in and asked to train more inmates so that they can run the bakery. He picked up two volunteers and imparted training to them. Prison authorities provided all the logistical support and the jailhouse bakery was born.

“I am here for the last 21 months. We were trained by the master who was later released. He taught us different baking techniques. We are now experts in baking. More volunteers have joined in and we are now training them. It is a continuous process,” said the 21-year-old inmate, who is the in-charge of the shop.

A small enclosure of the shop has been converted into the manufacturing unit. Every day, the bakers make fresh bread and biscuits depending upon the demand and order. Jail authorities pick up some of the products and deliver them to those who have pre-booked the orders.

Just a few meters away from the bakery lies a Naanwai (Kashmiri flatbread) shop. A trained nanwai, who is one among the 600 inmates, is heading the unit. Earlier, the jail authorities had to buy Kashmiri `tchot and lawasa’ from the market. But now the inmates are making and distributing the fresh Kashmiri flat made within the jail.

Superintendent of Jail Daljit Singh said they have not yet started the sale of the bakery in the open market. “We are not putting up our items for sale. Our production depends upon the demand. It is a daily routine,” he said.  

Deputy Superintendent of Police Malik Mansoor said seventy percent of the profit goes to the inmates who work in the bakery. “Rest of thirty percent goes to the government treasury,” he said.