If there's one cornerstone to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's reign in the state, it's one word – freebies. Assembly polls are up ahead and AIADMK is likely to ramp up Brand Amma, More products are lined up to help the poor, while reminding them of her presence anywhere they choose to look. While a few initiatives are on the backburner, here are some of Amma's best hits that have won over the people of Tamil Nadu.
Launched two years ago, Amma Unavagam (canteen) has unanimously been celebrated for successfully providing hearty meals at nominal rates, winning praise from the poor and daily labourers. An idli at Rs.1, plate of curd rice at Rs.3 and sambar rice at Rs.5 – the prices have put a smile on many who can afford very little. The Chennai Corporation runs canteens across the city through women’s self-help groups, and more are set to come up across the state. The target is to scale up to 1,000 across the state.
Unavagam catered to the hungry, but what about the thirsty? Amma Kudineer (water) made its debut in 2013, with packaged water bottles priced at Rs. 10 a litre and sold at bus stations in Chennai and other districts of Tamil Nadu. The bottles are also sold on government buses plying on lengthy routes.
Amma's giveaways began keeping up with the time, with a free laptop scheme catering to students who couldn't afford the technology, and a reported 11 lakh laptops the target. Though of different brands, each laptop is equipped with a dual core processor with 2GB RAM, 120 Hard Disk with WiFi facility. The original cost of the product is approximately Rs 26000, a hefty price for the ex-chequer to pay. The laptops soon made their debut in the grey market at throw-away prices with some beneficiaries even selling them for Rs. 8,000 -10,000
AMMA BABY KITS
It's a reminder of the Finnish welfare schemes that gift each mother a starter kit of essentials on delivering a child. In September last year, the CM introduced a goodie bag for all mothers which has – and don't hold your breath – a towel, clothing, mattress, mosquito net, baby oil, shampoo, soap, nail cutter, hand sanitizer, doll, soap, some lehiyam and a rattler. Well. This one is sure to rattle the opposition at least.
'Amma Salt,’ made by the Tamil Nadu Salt Corporation (TNSC) for the benefit of the weaker sections was launched in 2014, in three varieties - Double Fortified Salt, Refined Free Flow Iodised Salt and Low Sodium Salt. While the double fortified variety is priced at Rs. 14 a kg, against the open market price of Rs. 21, the refined free flow variety costs Rs. 10, against the market price of Rs. 14 to Rs. 20. The Low Sodium Salt costs Rs. 21, against the private players’ price of Rs. 25.
If she was riding on the success of Amma canteens and water, she's cementing her place in state politics with this one. Amma Cement hit markets at Rs.190 a bag, and is sold through 220 godowns of the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation (TNCSC) and 250 godowns of the Rural Development and Panchayat Department across the State. Consumers building houses will be issued 50 bags per 100 square feet, subject to a maximum of 750 bags for 1,500 square feet.
One of the latest entrants of Brand Amma, the Amma Seeds Scheme to provide certified quality seeds to farmers with a view to increase agricultural production in the state and would be sold through Amma Service Centres at a reasonable price. Aiding this is her 'Do It Yourself' kit' with Rs. 5.37 crore allocated for this scheme, where inputs for growing vegetables by establishing roof gardens on open terrace would be widely circulated.
AMMA GRINDER AND FAN
It all began with the mixers and grinders, the first batch of freebies that politicians swept their vote banks with. This was one of Jayalalithaa's first freebie promises to the public aside from goats, cows and sheep, and is now the most widely distributed.
While drug prices skyrocketed, Amma pharmacies provided a balm. In 2014, Jayalalithaa launched ten ‘Amma’ pharmacies in Chennai, Erode, Salem, Cuddalore, Erode, Madurai, Sivaganga and Virudhunagar at a cost of Rs.1 crore to sell medicines at fair prices, and reportedly 10 percent lesser than market prices.
To reach out to more women voters, “Amma Mobiles” were launched in September 2015 to provide computerised mobile phones loaded with special Tamil software would be provided to 20,000 women's self-help group (SHG) trainers at a cost of Rs. 15 crores. The state has more than six lakh Self Help Groups with 92 lakh women as members.
AMMA CALL CENTRE
A solution by the government to avoid the pain of red-tapism? Amma has it. Amma Makkal Sevai Maiyyam' (Amma People's Service Centre) is the latest in the 'Amma' series of welfare projects. The service centre will be a one-stop shop for availing services of urban local bodies like corporations and municipalities. People can go to the zonal offices in the corporation area and municipalities to get birth and death certificate, commercial licences, water connection, commercial tax, property tax, building approval, name changes and other certificates
Apparently, she also wants to be the Cine'Amma', and she's leaving no stone unturned for that. Corporation officials say they have finalised seven locations — T Nagar, Basin Bridge, Kotturpuram, Ramapuram, Pulianthope, Kodambakkam and Wall Tax Road — to set up Amma theatres in the first phase and are awaiting the state government's approval. In 2014, the civic body had announced Amma theatres to provide entertainment for residents at an affordable cost. The air-conditioned theatres will screen U-certified Tamil movies and offer tickets at less than Rs. 25.
AMMA VEGETABLE SHOPS:
She's also making sure you don't have to haggle with the vegetable seller. To stem rising vegetable prices, Jayalalithaa has launched fair price vegetable shops to sell farm-fresh vegetables at substantially lower rates in Chennai and its suburbs. The government departments procure vegetables directly from the farmers for the shops. With this step, the government has been able to keep the prices low by keeping the middlemen at bay. Reportedly, the outlets sold a whopping 13,000 kg of vegetables on the first day.