No one would complain about the dearth of official executioners now. When the jail authorities in Kerala scouted for one, they were in for a big shock.
At least 150 people applied. A few of them even held a graduation degree.
Additional Director of Police (Jail) Alexander Jacob said: “The jail department did not advertise. A news report in Malayala Manorama triggered the rush.”
Though there are nine persons on death row in the state, the last execution was held 18 years ago.
Across the country, death sentences are delayed due to a shortage of experienced hangmen. Most of the nation’s handful of executioners are either dead or retired. In Assam, a science graduate has offered to don the hangman’s robes to execute a convict whose mercy plea was turned down by President Pratibha Patil. The authorities there are looking for a qualified hangman too.
Nata Mullick, who executed 26 convicts, the maximum number in the country, died in Kolkata in 2009. He had hit the headlines in 2004, when he was brought back from retirement for the execution of Dhananjay Chatterjee, who raped and killed a 16-year-old girl.
Traditional executioners stick to their profession though the pay is not good and executions take place very rarely. “Many of the applicants thought it was a permanent job,” said Jacob. “After realising it is a part-time assignment, only 50 applicants remained.”
The jail department, however, has no plan to recruit any of them. “This job needs special training and frame of mind. We need qualified ones to do this,” he said.
Now the authorities are planning to train some of the existing jail staff. But there is another hitch. The state’s last three executioners died of throat cancer, forcing the jail staff to stay away.