To preface, let me say that I'm not fan of any of the political parties neither am I interested in politics. It is amusing to watch people trying to follow & decode the return of political parties to power. But Mrs. J Jayalalitha has been so astonishing a leader that I have wondered myself a several times 'She is not a parent, but why is she called “Amma”?'
On 25th March 1989, a bold statement was made by Mrs. Jayalalitha after she was humiliated by DMK ministers (like Dushasana pulling Panchali’s saree) – “I will return & attend the parliament only as the Chief Minister”. As destiny had it’s course, her alliance partner Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991. The sympathy votes won people’s hearts, & Tamil Nadu got it’s first, youngest chief minister who completed her term successfully (between 1991 to 1996). This marked as a turning point in the history of the state. As she embarked on her journey to adopt some of the unconventional strategies over the years, let’s have a look at her administration at grass root level.
Surpassing the founder’s record of winning the maximum seats, Mrs. Jayalaitha contested & won all the 39 seats in 2014 elections. A gigantic victory for the party after the DMK scam came to light, people found new hope in AIDMK bestowing her with political fortunes. The former actress, a writer, a politician, well let’s say an educated politician who was familiar with English, Tamil & Hindi; thus making her a versatile woman.
The question arises – Why is she called Amma? Many people believe that her cult figure among poor who are dependent on her for their little necessities like rice, fan, sarees & “Amma” branded products has made her one of the most successful politicians and thus bringing her to power for the 5th time. Commendable isn’t it? Just like a mother provides you with food (pulses, oils, wheat), shelter (allotment by the housing board) & clothes (sarees & other clothing), Jayalaitha also tapped the emotion of upliftment from poverty by providing the basic necessities to luxury for the needy (free power, phone, tv, grinder & more as you read further). But what has made her the “Amma” of Tamil Nadu?
Freebies In Tamil Nadu
Free! We Indians love the word “Free”. Isn’t it? It is the normal Indian mentality to get excited by anything that you receive free. Last electoral polls promised free mixer, grinder & fan. This year a cell phone, fridge & washing machine. Wonder who pays for these freebies & how deep are someone’s pockets. Whatever the case maybe, no matter how much inflation has our oil, veggies, grocery, vat & tax has seen, we Indians, in this case we the people of Tamil Nadu are delighted with the freebies that is provided to us.
Amma Canteen (Unavagam)
They say – The way to win a man’s heart is through his stomach. Amma Canteen (Unavagam) is a sure winner for the AIADMK party leaving no stone unturned. It has attracted several people from other states & countries to understand how is the government able to run these self-help groups led canteens, selling food at penny prices & maintaining the quality throughout. Sambar rice at Rs.5 a plate & an idly at Re.1. Can the blue-collar & labour community ask for more. Even if Amma Cement is unable to make her place concrete, Amma canteen surely has & will stand strong for years to come. Because with Amma canteen in your neighborhood, no one has to sleep hungry.
Amma Water(Kudineer Thittam)
Amma water sold at Rs. 10 a litre was introduced 3 years back with a motive to quench thirst. With summers getting hotter by the year, Amma water sells like hot cakes at stations, depots & small shops because private players sell double purified water at almost double or treble the price.
It came to a surprise to many when the chief minister announced the distribution of 11 Lakh laptops to all students loaded with 2GB Ram & WiFi facility. In a state where lakhs of people live below poverty line striving to meet their basic necessities, a laptop was a luxury to them. Although many preferred a cash compensation for the same, the laptops soon found a place in the grey market which were sold at less than half the price. The cost of procuring each was about Rs. 26,000. Wonder where the money comes from?
Amma Mother’s Kit
To add to the joy of every mother, 2015 saw an interesting scheme rolled out to avoid child (female) infanticide and delight all the mothers who have just delivered a child. The goodie back contains all the basic essential baby products that are essential for nurturing the baby. The kit contains baby oil, shampoo, soap, rattler, hand sanitizer, nail cutter, towel, mattress & a mosquito net (quintessential for a city like Chennai). As a custom, most mothers would gift their daughter a set of the same. Wonder why she is called “Amma”?
Salt, a humble but quintessential element of every household is now available at a lower price. Double fortified salt, Refined free flow & Low sodium salt is sold at about 30% lesser than market price. Tamil Nadu Salt Corporation is reaching out widely to grant the benefit to all the needy.
Building a strong concrete for her next polls, Amma Cement is booming with an unending demand for the quest of shelter. Sold at Rs.190 per bag, common man can now be a proud owner of his own home. There is a cap on the quantity of cement that every family can avail to avoid exploitation of resources.
To propel production of good quality agricultural yield, Amma provides high quality seeds to the farmers to provide some relief to the soaring costs of production. A DIY kit is also distributed which encapsulates methods for growing veggies on open terrace & farms.
Amma Pharmacies (Marundagam)
Amma promised holistic health welfare to the less affluent people. As it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford medicines, Amma has proposed safe drugs & medicines at subsidized rates that is lower than market prices, giving stiff competition to the private players who have been stalwarts in the pharmaceuticals industry. Shelling out 20 crores from the state reserve, pharmacies even at subsidized rate can bring great revenues for the government.
Amma Mobiles (Kaipesi Thittam)
The end of 2015, saw the launch of Amma mobiles with a specialized software that would be provided to all the self-help women groups (92 Lakh members currently). The training & equipment cost comes to about Rs.15 crores. Well, Amma knows how to make her brand & presence felt.
Amma Call Centre
Tired of waiting for the property approval? Dial the toll free number “1100”Amma’s people are there for you to address all your issues. Need help with construction approval, water or gas connection, birth certificate or driving licence, property tax or electrical supply. You can contact with the call centre who will connect you to the government officials & expedite the process. Notification via sms & email will be sent along with the complaint or registration number. It is gearing up to handle about 15000 calls a day.
Amma Master Health Check-up
Special woman check-up for the needy in the rural & sub-urban areas for the upliftment of the over-all health & hygiene of the state. Similarly, Amma Maternity Sanjeevi was also extended for those women who are expecting mothers. The government has spent about Rs.208 crores. If dolling out populist schemes like providing freebies doesn’t help in futuristic development, this one certainly does.
Bringing her passion for movies back to life, Amma proposed to introduce Amma Cinema about 2 years back that will sell tickets at under Rs. 25. Yes, we are talking of fully air-conditioned theatre. Beat it? Kollywood only please.
Amma vegetable shops
Curbing the ever-soaring prices of veggies, Amma introduced Amma Vegetable Shops at prices substantially lower than private players. With tremendous sales of about 13,000 kg of veggies, Amma Vegetable shops is set to expand to as many districts as possible.
Apart from these Amma Branded products or services, which are named after her to make her presence felt everywhere, there are other commendable aspects of her administration that cannot be ignored. Some of them as follows.
- The first day after the win at the recent electoral polls, the chief minister declared to shut 500 liquor shops across the state. All liquor shops are operational only between 12pm to 10pm, thus reducing the chances of domestic violence, drunk driving & excessive expenditure on alcohol by the poor.
- Waiver of agricultural loans for farmers will be implemented this year, giving much relief to the farmers.
- 100 units of free power, every month, for every household or commercial establishment has been promised by the government this year (2016).
- Jayalalitha has also promised to provide gold mangalsutra or scared thread that is worn by married women going forward.
- Completion of Veeranam project that brought water & electricity that seemed a far-fetched dream for years. Thereby disproving those people who believed that she doesn’t have an iota for administration.
- Long before the Amma Canteen had begun, Anna Dhanam, an initiative to provide free food to all the needy people at the temples was introduced.
- Jaya TV – Her love for movies can’t go unnoticed. Jaya TV is one of the most viewed channels in the Tamil Industry. There might be an overdose of “Amma News”, but, well there is entertainment, entertainment & entertainment!
- While she was in power, she ensured that Veerapan(the bandit) was caught & shot since he was corrupt & indulged in mishaps in the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka forests.
- Bicycles for rural children – To encourage children to attend school in the rural areas especially those who are travelling from their home.
- The Meter Rule – Here is one benefit for the middle & upper middle class society. She has made the meter rule mandatory with the auto-rickshaws. Albeit, they weren’t happy about it. Although, most rickshaw-walas tend to bend this rule, it has brought some relief to the commuters.
- Rain Water Harvesting – Bringing much relief to the water crisis, she had introduced the rain water harvesting scheme to be incorporated to every building new & old.
- Mid-Day meal scheme – With a vision to improve literacy rates & shun drop-out rates from the government schools, she rolled out the mid-day meal program that provides free lunch to all the students who attend school. The nutritious food ensures that children get to eat atleast one good meal everyday, thereby reducing the burden from those parents who cannot afford to provide good food for their children.
- In her term, she introduced 57 “all - women” operated police stations. A minimum 30% quota for women in all the police jobs was made mandatory. Other all-women establishments included libraries, stores, banks and co-operative elections.
- Tremendous development in the OMR belt & the IT sector that supports the same. Eg. The massive IT parks in the belt (Taramani to Siruseri) have attracted the big MNCs to establish a strong foot in this space.
The recent polls where AIDMK had a clean sweep, clearly state that Amma is the “Godmother” for many in the state. The return to power after the judgement was revoked into her favour has made her unstoppable. As her reign continues, we hope that the future holds bright for Tamil Nadu. Apart from the success stories of the Amma Canteen, we look forward to seeing Tamil Nadu or India in the Global political map for achieving commendable milestones that the whole world looks upto.
In your opinion, how do you think that the current government can perform better operationally? What can be the possible areas of improvement? Please share your opinion. Well, your voice might ring bells & push doors paving way to making Tamil Nadu the way we want it to be.
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A doting mom to an angel, Social Media Specialist & Professional Blogger. She loves to share her thoughts with other parents in the same turbulent boat. She absolutely loves & adores her family & is learning to strike a good work-life balance. When she is not writing, cooking or busy taking care of her toddler, she probably is dancing to some good desi music!