Hundreds of death row inmates are waiting for the hangman in prisons throughout India, but the country's judicial system is facing a shortage of executioners.
The hangmen's tribe have dwindled in recent years with executions becoming a rarity, while negligible remuneration and the ominous nature of the job have prevented newcomers to the profession.
However, all that is set to change at least in the southern state of Kerala, which has found a straightforward way to attract interest -- raise the remuneration steeply.
According to report in a regional language daily, the wages for hangmen have gone up from a mere Rupees 500 (£4.90, $8.33) to Rupees 200,000 (£1,958, $3,330) per execution.
The sharp wage hike prompted hordes of aspirants to queue up for the job -- in the hope of making a killing.
Apart from the office of the Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi which published the report, the state's central jails and associated departments also received a flurry of enquiries from would-be hangmen. Some called, others wrote and some others came in person, hoping to land the lucrative position, the daily said in a subsequent report.
In all, there are 16 convicts on death row pending appeal and the state has to keep a hangman ready, reports the Hindustan Times.
Kerala's Kannur Central jail, which houses the largest number of convicts sentenced to death in the state, received at least 50 applications after the news broke, according to the Mathrubhumi.
Some of the applicants spoke boastfully about taking on the difficult task, while some others saw it as a great opportunity to become debt free.
One man even picked the prisoner he wanted to hang – a convict sentenced to death in a sensational rape and murder case that rocked the state a few years ago. Another called up the Mathrubhumi's office to plead that he be allowed to hang all 16 convicts at one go as it would help him escape the burden of debts he had incurred.
Jail officials had a tough time convincing them that there was no permanent positions open for the executioner's job and therefore they could not entertain requests for the same, the Malayalam daily reported.
The dearth of people to take up the grim job has been fodder for popular films in Kerala's thriving film industry. The convention has been to look for paid volunteers whenever an execution is confirmed by the country's highest court.
In India, death penalty is by hanging and awarded only in the 'rarest of rare cases' with the last reported high-profile hanging being that of Afzal Guru in February 2013 for his role in the 2001 attack on the country's parliament.
Unfortunately for the applicants, the 16 convicts sentenced to the gallows in Kerala could appeal to commute their death sentences. Only when their appeal is overturned by the higher courts including the Supreme Court, and their final petition of mercy rejected by the president of the country, will they actually be executed.
In short, for all those aspiring executioners in Kerala who dreams of a windfall, hope is hanging by a thread.