Daily routine at a prison is not something which an inmate serving life term looks forward to or loves to talk about. However, Tuesday was something different at Kalamba Central Jail, Kolhapur, which houses 1,600 inmates of whom 75% are serving life term.Reason: Thirty of the inmates were tasked with a unique job, starting Tuesday, and this was to prepare laddus that are to be distributed as prasad for devotees of Kolhapur’s historical temple of Goddess Mahalaxmi.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Most of them, 15 men and 15 women, are serving life term and were getting involved in such a ‘sacred’ activity for the first time. “They agreed readily for the work as they believed the work as service towards God. It was difficult to shortlist 30 people as there were too many aspirants,” Kalamba jail superintendent Sharad Shelke told dna.Toiling for eight hours – from 8 am to 4 pm – in a heavily guarded room of 60/40 square feet, the inmates churned out 3,000 laddus, which were then beautifully packaged and delivered to the temple on Wednesday morning. Another consignment of 3,000 laddus was ready by Wednesday evening to be delivered next day. Earlier, they were trained for a month to prepare quality laddus, sticking to the prescribed norms of taste, size and weight in a hygienic manner.The room where laddus are made has been divided into two compartments. “Men in one compartment prepare boondi, take it out, remove oil, prepare sugar chashni and soak the boondi in chashni. The material is then sent to women’s area who then make laddus and pack them,” explains Shelke.It was Kolhapur collector Amit Saini – also the ex-officio head of Pashchim Maharashtra Devsthan Samiti, which runs the Mahalaxmi temple – who floated the idea two months back. The Home department readily agreed to the proposal.Right wing groups such as Hindu Janjagruti Samiti raised strong opposition to the move though.“Prasad is regarded sacred and must be prepared by those who have faith in God and with noble intentions. How can we ask murder and rape convicts to prepare them, that too on the jail premises which are infamous for all illegal activities including use of drugs,” asks Arvind Pansare, HJS state spokesperson. He also said that it could hurt the sentiments of the believers.Saini, however, is moving ahead with the plan. “We had received several complaints regarding poor qaulity and underweight laddoos supplied by the contractors. We were helpless. As per government rules, we had to give the work to the lowest bidder. The supplier used to quote Rs 3.5 per laddoo of 50 grams. It is impossible to maintain the quality at this cost unless you use poor quality ingredients,” Saini told dna justifying his move. “Hence, we toyed with the idea to rope in jail inmates so that good quality prasad can be prepared, maintaining hygiene and quality and under strict supervision,” Saini said.As per the rules, inmates are paid Rs40-50 per day for the job depending upon the skill type of the work. “The pilot project would be implemented for three months. We will see the feedback as well as the quality. If everything is good, the contract will be continued,” said Saini.The members of Paschim Maharashtra Devasthan Samiti (PMDS) which governs the temple said they visited the jail premises to check their system of production and hygiene. “Their system is good and meet the hygiene norms. We will procure the sweets from them at Rs 7 and distribute them at Rs 8,” an official said.

Taken from: 

In a first, Kolhapur’s Mahalaxmi prasad being made by prison inmates