New Delhi, India’s capital city, is one of the busiest from political activity. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city lies a seemingly mundane restaurant. However, the people working there are certainly no ordinary workers.
The restaurant, known as Tihar Food Court, is in fact run by hardcore inmates. Tihar Food Court is a rehabilitation effort-cum-experiment started by the Tihar prison management. Opened in the first week of his month on a “trial basis,” the restaurant still hasn’t received formal clearance, yet criminals who are doing hard-time mingle in the midst of customers who are there to grab a bite or eat a wholesome meal.
The Food Court is situated merely 500 meters from the prisoners’ dormitories and still there hasn’t been a single case of attempted escape. The restaurant is completely unassuming, with a spacious interior lined with wooden tables. Interestingly, the walls are adorned with paintings done by prisoners themselves, reported the Wall Street Journal.
The 50-seat restaurant has been praised for the polite behavior of its employees, who were trained by a prestigious nearby hotel management school. However, one shouldn’t visit the restaurant for its culinary expertise, cautioned one visitor. “The food is average,” said Gaurav Gupta, a banker. “But the hygiene factor is really good, very clean. And it’s a good thing they are employing prisoners.”
Though not stuffed with delicacies, the Tihar Food Court is a blessing for anyone looking to have a decent, budget meal in a city where inflation has pushed prices sky-high. The “Deluxe Thali” is the most expensive item, costing 150 rupees ($2.50), while samosas are among the cheapest, at 10 rupees (17 cents). “Those who come once to have our food come back again,” beamed restaurant manager Mohammad Asim, who himself has done 14-and-a-half years of hard time on a murder conviction.
The food is relatively cheap due to the fact that inmates are still serving time and their remuneration is fixed as per Indian Penal Code. Each worker is paid a measly Rs. 74 ($1.20) per day and this money is deposited in the prisoners’ accounts. Once released, the money is paid as a one-time settlement of dues. Prisoners often work on other projects, like making handicrafts and baskets. The money earned from such work is also deposited in these accounts.
To be eligible to leave prison and work in the restaurant, inmates must have kept up an “unblemished record” through at least 12 years of imprisonment, in addition to a high school education. Prisoners eligible to be released within two years are picked for the job in order to minimize their temptation to escape.
So far, the inmate-operated Tihar Food Court has received modest but heart-warming praise by patrons, and has been specially lauded for the “exceptional” level of hygiene and humble services, reported India Today. The only common complaint seemed to the limited number of dishes.
[Image Credit | Reuters]