Ahead of the polls, the Chennai Corporation has planned 68 initiatives for Amma's 68th birthday

Power of 68 Chennai City Corporation is going bonkers with schemes on Ammas birthday
news Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - 08:49

It began with more freebies, mass marriages for the young and wedding-vow-renewals for the old, but the scale of TN Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's birthday celebrations only seem to be growing. If the city isn't already decked enough with banners to mark the big day – the Chennai City Corporation has fervently planned 68 initiatives to be undertaken on her 68th birthday, which falls on February 24. Grand plans have been drawn up, and prime emphasis has been placed on the number 68. Here's a peek into the scale of this welfare-focused celebration.

The measures mostly comprise freebies, health, environmental and cultural initiatives. “The first event that we have already kicked off is a rolling trophy competition which is open to the public. The games include cricket, basketball, football, hockey, kabaddi, table tennis, badminton, kho-kho, weightlifting, bodybuilding, karate, Judo, boxing, fencing, carrom, chess, squash and athletics,” a corporation official said. Nehru Indoor Stadium, Rajaratnam stadium, Nungamabakkam public grounds and the corporation swimming pool.

Free food will be provided across all 282 Amma canteens on the day.

Among the major environmental measures are releasing mosquito fish, a larva feeding fish species, in 68 mosquito breeding spots in the city.

Local bodies will be planting 68,000 tree saplings on the day and 68 banyan tree saplings in each of its 200 wards.

Floating debris from 68 water bodies in the city will be removed, rain water harvesting pits will be constructed in all corporation buildings. A push for the terrace garden initiative is also on the cards – the 68 best ones in the city will be awarded and do-it-yourself kits for starting terrace gardens will be distributed.

Medical camps are also being organized. 68 parks in the city will host camps for immunisation and checkups, and blood donation camps are also part of the plan. Mobile medical camps, camps to test for diabetes, breast cancer screenings and blood pressure in all primary health centres are also being planned.

Children born on Amma's birthday are in luck. The Corporation will also open a fixed deposit account worth Rs. 10,000 in the names of all babies born in the city on the day. 68 transgender people will be honoured and 68 participants in kolam competitions will be awarded prizes.

Residents over the age of 100 years will be rewarded by the corporation. The corporation will also host sand sculpting competitions in the city’s beaches.

But are all these measures simply going to be a one day wonder? “We're going to begin implementing the schemes on her birthday. It'll extend for over months and city ward councils will handle them for however long they last.” says Palaniappan, PRO of Chennai Corporation.

Last year, the priorities were a tad different since her birthday was days ahead of a crucial Karnataka high court judgment on her appeal against a trial court's verdict on the disproportionate assets case. An 'abhishekam' in the Navashakthi Vinayagar temple in Chennai and special poojas at temples in the city for Amma were conducted to emerge unscathed by the then impending judgement – no stone was left unturned, or rather worshipped, last birthday. And back in 2014, AIADMK representatives, who saw the popularity of their chief peak then, had cut a massive cake in the shape of the Indian Parliament for her birthday – the year was all about nurturing her prime ministerial dreams.

“It's not new to expect populist measures from her, but this year is all about the elections, so the focus on the number 68 to remind us of her presence in even the measures undertaken for the welfare of the people is only typical,” says Ramu Manivannan, political science professor at the Madras University. “Granted, she's been promoting tree planting initiatives for a while now, but do you see the Prime Minister limiting the number of initiatives to the number he turns on his birthday? It's just another extension of personality cult coupled with the fervour of campaigning.”