Indian state offers fat pay raise in attempt to attract applicants to jail hangman job

Published: July 21, 2014

A hangman’s gallows sits idle at the Benghazi Central Prison on March 1, 2011 on the outskirts of Benghazi, Libya. Inmates broke free of the prison during the uprising a week ago in the city. John Moore/Getty Images

RAMESH BABU
HINDUSTAN TIMES

The Indian state of Kerala is offering a pay raise worth thousands of dollars in an attempt to attract more men to one of the country’s dirtiest jobs – hanging death row convicts.

Facing an acute shortage of jail hangmen, the jail department submit a suggestion to hike their fee from a measly $10 to about $3,500 – and this suggestion opened the floodgates, with more than 70 applications coming into the Kannur Central Jail alone – which is only one of the state’s three central jails.

In the state, 16 convicts are now facing the gallows and it’s the duty of the jail department to keep hangmen at the ready.

“According to (the) 1957 jail manual a hangman gets Rs. 500 ($10 CDN) for a single execution. Since it wasn’t renewed all these years, a suggestion was given to renew it substantially.  It really triggered a massive response,” said Kannur central jail superintendent Ashokan Arippa.

A senior officer of the jail department said they arrived at the generous amount after calculating the value of the fee in 1957 and other related factors.

Back then, princely states pampered hangmen and their families, but after  independence their numbers dwindled and at times jail officials were forced to double up their role as hangmen.

Since the task involves a lot mental stress, many of them are unwilling to carry out the official execution as well.

But with the new salary attached, many applicants, who have asked not to disclose their identifies for fear of stigma, have made some interesting offers in an attempt to nab the job. One applicant promised to execute all 16 on death row in a single day, so he can quickly ease his debt, while another offered to execute rapist Govindachamy – who was sentenced to death for pushing a girl out of a moving train and raping and killing her on the tracks – free of cost.

“We have no plan to recruit them permanently and keep them on the rolls. But at the same time we have to ensure their ready availability. So we have to offer them a good amount,” said another jail department official.

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