On 5 December, Tamil as well as national politics saw the end of an era as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa breathed her last. For decades she adorned the landscape of Tamil politics and on occasions national politics. Some have called her a ruthless taskmaster, some an opportunist, but to her followers, she was nothing less than a matriarch ‘Amma’.
Many attribute the reason of Jayalalithaa’s larger than life appeal among the masses to her popularity as an actress and MGR’s deputy. However it will not be incorrect to say that the sobriquet was bestowed upon her by the masses due to the numerous welfare and pro-people measures she took during her accumulated 15 year reign as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
When she became the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for the first time in 1991, she lacked any administrative understanding. However when the issue was of realising complex issues concerning Tamil Nadu, she took many significant decisions. As Tamil Nadu loses its matriarch, let us look at some of the significant steps implemented by ‘Amma’ for the masses.
1. Free Laptop for Students
In the field of software exports from India, Tamil Nadu is a major contributor. Chennai is presented as one of India’s primary destination to find quality resources for the IT sector. However, access to computers was not easily obtainable for young students trying to learn IT skills. To solve this difficulty the then TN CM announced free laptops to aspiring students which changed the situation aiding countless number of students.
2. AMMA TNFDC Fish Stall Chennai
Jayalalitha launched the AMMA TNFDC Fish stalls in many key locations in Chennai. A popular delicacy in parts of Tamil Nadu Nadu, Seer (Vanjiram) which was sold at Rs 900 upwards in super markets was available for Rs 600 in the TNFDC fish stalls. Besides the itinerant stalls, TNFDC also has a door delivery unit. The prices are updated every day at the website.
3. Amma Pannai Pasumai Shops (Nugarvor Kootturavu Kadai) in Chennai (Farm Fresh Consumer Outlets)
In the case of inflation, one often hears the grievance that while the financially capable ones can still manage their purchases, it is the ordinary citizen who suffers. As a solution to that grievance, the then CM introduced farm fresh vegetable stores termed Pannai Pasumai Shops (Nugarvor Kootturavu Kadai) in Chennai which sell vegetables at subsidised prices.
4. Chennai Small Bus
In the areas of transport this was an unique feature in Tamil Nadu. In areas where MTC buses could not go in , Amma took the decision to launch ‘Chennai Small Bus’ services in October 2013. This scheme was very helpful for commuters to travel to nearby railway stations, hospitals and bus stations without depending on auto rickshaws and call taxis.
5. Amma seeds
In 2014, Jayalalithaa launched the ‘Amma seeds’ programme which was intended to provide high quality, certified seeds to farmers at reasonable prices. The project executed in January 2016 was allocated a budget of Rs. 5.37 crore. The government under that scheme also encouraged urban citizens to grow vegetables at homes. Kits with required ingredients for vegetable farming at home were distributed by the government.
6. Amma micro loans scheme
Following the disastrous floods of 2015, this scheme was launched to provide micro loans for small traders. The traders were able to obtain loan upto Rs.5,000 from banks and the government would l pay the interest. The reimbursement could be as little as Rs. 200 a week. The ones who pay on time are eligible for higher loans upto Rs. 25,000.
7. Amma Arogya Thittam
In an attempt to broaden the welfare benefits to the health sector, this scheme offers effective health check-ups like cardiac function, cancer and diabetes and assures medication through public health centres and government hospitals with the cost being one-fifth of what private centres offer.
8. The Cradle baby scheme
The first-ever pro-people welfare scheme that was launched by Ms. Jayalalithaa when she took power in Tamil Nadu in 1991. This was a time when the State was reeling under female foeticide and gender-based abortions were rampant.
This scheme enabled mothers to namelessly hand over their new-born children to the government, which would take care of them or give them for adoptions. After two decades of its existence, the scheme controlled orphanages are now seeing fewer babies. She expanded it in 2001. As per the 2011 census, the scheme-affected districts registered an upward trend in the child sex ratio.
9. All Women Police Stations
As a step to soothe the grievances of women, the first All Women Police Station was set up in 1992 by her government. At present, 200 such police stations are functioning in the State, with one in each sub-division.
About 40 per cent of the India’s All Women Police Stations are in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu also has one-fourth of women sub-inspectors in the country.
10. Rainwater harvesting
Started as a kind of movement by the government in 2001 the Jayalalithaa administration made Rainwater harvesting obligatory in all buildings to restock the groundwater tables, which were rapidly falling.
Needing an RWH structure became necessary for obtaining water and sewer connections in Chennai. This marked significant improvement in the city’s ground water table and quality since, and as of now 7.82 lakh buildings have over 8.47 lakh rainwater harvesting structures.
The movement has been expanded to many other parts of the state.
11. Maternity assistance
After taking office in 2011, Amma increased the maternity assistance under the Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme from Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 12,000 and given in three instalments-
- The first given before delivery to those availing all required antenatal care services in government institutions.
- The second for those giving birth in government institutions.
- The third instalment after immunisation of the child.
The scheme was intended to provide assistance to poor pregnant mothers to meet the expenses of a nutritious diet, to compensate for the loss of income during motherhood and to avoid low birth weight of newborn babies.
12. Amma Unavagam (Amma Canteen)
Perhaps the most memorable scheme launched in 2013, when the CM announced the setting up of a chain of highly-subsidised restaurants across Tamil Nadu. The concept of ‘Amma Canteen’ was seen all across the country as the model welfare scheme. Jayalalithaa through the generated employment for a large number of women who were needed for the cooking and cleaning. By 2016, more than 300 such eateries had sprung up all across the state.
As of this year Tamil Nadu has the lowest fertility rate along with having the second best infant mortality and maternal mortality rate.
It also records the lowest crime rates against women and children and finally provides more industrial employment than any other Indian state.
Of course it is not that only these policies made Amma the dear leader to all her supporters but these are definitely the ones where she stamped her everlasting legacy.
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