Thiruvananthapuram: After their success in dishing out delicious and cost-effective food items, prisoners in Kerala are now gearing up to manage fuel stations, thanks to an innovative government initiative.
Drawing inspiration from their counterparts in Tamil Nadu and Punjab, the Prison Department is all set to open petrol pumps in the outer campuses of three central jails in the state, envisaged to be run by selected inmates.
The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) is setting up the pumps in the land, identified by the prison department.
At least 15 convicted prisoners would be identified and given training to run each fuel station on a shift basis and they will be given wages for their work as per jail rules, authorities said.
A top prison official said the plan is to open the fuel stations by November-December this year.
"All necessary government clearances have been received for the initiative. The pumps will come up on the campuses of the central prisons in Poojappura here, Viyyur in Thrissur district and in Kannur," Prison DGP, Rishiraj Singh told PTI.
"The IOC will begin the construction works soon and the work is expected to be completed in the next one month.
We hope that the pumps can be opened by November-December", he said.
Singh said many states like Tamil Nadu already have petrol pumps under the Prisons department.
"They are making handsome revenue by running petrol pumps. Besides generating revenue, the project will also help prisoners engage in constructive activities," he said.
The DGP said the employees who would manage the petrol stations would be handpicked from among the convicted prisoners.
"Not just this project, but inmates are part of all our major initiatives like online food or in the running of prison cafeteria. Those who have knowledge in manning petrol pumps will be given preference. All those selected will be given training," he said.
Based on the nature of the work, the inmates are given wages of up to Rs 160-180a day in the state prisons and those deployed at the fuel stations would also be given remuneration as per the standards, he said.
Seeking to tap the hugely popular online food market, the Kerala Prison Department had recently begun offering biriyani prepared by inmates.
For this, they have tied up with Swiggy, the online food delivery player.
The Freedom Food Factory, an enterprise selling food, mainly chappathi and chicken curry combo, prepared by inmates at Kerala prisons, has been engaged in the business since 2011.