There's nothing to relish in going to jail but now tastes are changing after 50 years, as the prison food is given some thought.
There's freedom from the traditional gur-chana (jaggery and gram) for prisoners who love their morning tea. It's biscuits on the menu now, besides a dessert (kheer) for the first time to keep them bound.
Rice-bran oil replaces vanaspati ghee to cut cholesterol; soya bean is included in the meal twice a week; and pulses and more vegetables will be served in rotation. Even if the sun-baked crooks are not reformed on release, at least they'll be healthier thanks to this proactive measure of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
"The CM is keen to improve the jail department, and as we discussed the health issues of inmates, he asked me to change the food menu to the modern-day requirements based on the advice of dieticians," said Rajpal Meena, additional director general of police (prisons).
Looking at the rising heart ailments in Punjab, the department replaced vanaspati ghee with rice-bran oil as cooking medium in the diet. "It was a major decision, as it increased the cost but gave better health benefits," said Meena.
You didn't have a choice of food as prisoner but now the jail department has made a deal with Metro Cash and Carry for the supply of quality eatables. "Kheer is a hot favourite, as earlier dessert was served only on special occasions and festivals. Now, it's fixed for every Sunday and cooked in Verka milk," said Rajan Kapur, a jail official in Patiala.
Most of the inmates disliked waking up with gur-chana (some had diabetes and the others doubt about the quality of jiggery) but biscuits now make it a good day. "There's less fear of adulteration, and some crisp is added," said the officer, who in the 18-year career, has seen the first change in the menu.