Tamil Nadu

Her first scheme did not have the prefix ‘Amma’

Almost all shops, restaurants and other commercial establishments in the city downed shutters on Tuesday following the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, fondly called ‘Amma’ by her admirers. Nevertheless, most of the poor and needy did not go hungry thanks to functioning of Amma unavagam (canteens) started by her in 2013 to provide meals at a nominal cost to economically weaker sections of society.

Amma Canteens were followed by a host of schemes such as Amma Kudineer (drinking water), Amma salt and Amma cement. Nevertheless, schemes with such a prefix got introduced only in recent years though it was on June 24, 1991 that she became Chief Minister for the first time and the title ‘Amma’ would have been more apt for her brainchild – the 1992 Cradle Baby Scheme – which had attracted international attention.Incidents of female infanticide were at their peak when she came out with the idea of establishing cradles in government hospitals in Salem district to enable people to hand over babies to the custody of the State rather than administering poison to them or throwing them into dustbins.

During the beginning of her second term as Chief Minister in 2001, Ms. Jayalalithaa extended the scheme to all other districts. Statistics submitted by Director of Social Welfare V. Amuthavalli before the Madras High Court Bench here recently revealed that 4,969 newborns – 4,032 baby girls and 937 baby boys – had been received under the cradle baby scheme between 1992 and October 31 this year. The babies were taken care of at State’s cost in child care centres until they were given in adoption to families.

Dharmapuri topped the list with 1,454 newborns – 1,368 female and 86 male – having been dropped in cradles. It was followed by Salem with 1,042 babies (964 female and 78 male), Theni with 267 babies (223 female and 44 male), and Madurai with 257 babies (190 female and 67 male).

A record

The Nilgiris alone earned the reputation of being the only district to register a single digit figure (2) of newborns received under the scheme. It was preceded by Tiruppur, a district formed in 2009, which had received the lowest double digit figure of 11 babies (10 female and one male) from State established cradles and Pudukottai with 27 newborns (21 female and six male).

The scheme earned both boquets and brickbats with movements such as Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion demanding its immediate repeal since, according to them, it had not achieved the desired purpose and instead encouraged people to abandon their newborns. The High Court Bench here too had expressed its displeasure over the scheme being continued indefinitely without conducting any study to promote values of gender equality among the masses.

Despite all criticisms, the cradle baby scheme has come to be spoken about widely and associated with its proponent Jayalalithaa who made the State government take the responsibility of mothering babies shunned by their parents.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 9:02:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Her-first-scheme-did-not-have-the-prefix-%E2%80%98Amma%E2%80%99/article16771385.ece

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