Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has to her credit a whopping 18 populist schemes. Every ‘Amma’ product or service is either free or heavily subsidised. They might have cost the state exchequer but have benefitted crores of people, especially women, in the State.
The Cradle baby scheme
This is the first-ever welfare scheme launched by Ms. Jayalalithaa when her government was at the helm in Tamil Nadu during 1991-96, at a time when the State was reeling under female foeticide and gender-based abortions were rampant in certain districts.
The scheme allowed mothers to anonymously hand over their new-born children to the government, which would take care of them or give them for adoptions. Over two decades of its existence, the cradles in government-run orphanages are now seeing fewer babies.
Thalikku thangam thittam
Roughly translated as ‘Gold for marriage’, the scheme was announced in AIADMK’s 2006 manifesto and implemented when she came to power in 2011. Named after social activist Moovalur Ramamirtham, the scheme gives four grams of gold and cash upto Rs.50,000 to economically-backward women who have completed their degree or diploma. She had promised to raise the amount of gold to one sovereign during the current regime.
The first populist scheme with ‘Amma’ branding, the city corporation-run canteens offer subsidised food as little as Re. 1. The canteens are a huge hit and are maintained by women Self Help Groups (SHG). Several states including Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi are running Amma-style canteens.
The Tamil Nadu Government began to sell packaged drinking water for Rs.10 per litre from 2013. The Amma water is probably the most inexpensive mineral water available in the market as the Railways-run Rail Neer cost Rs.15 and private packaged water are more expensive.
Amma Kudineer Thittam
In February this year, she introduced this scheme for supplying upto 20 litres of drinking water per family per day to those who cannot afford to buy purified drinking water from private players. Around 200 water kiosks are functioning in Chennai city alone, which would supply potable water through vending machines.
Another landmark populist measure from AIADMK that gave away free laptops for higher-secondary and college students studying in government and aided institutions in the State. Uttar Pradesh too took a leaf from Tamil Nadu and implemented it in their State.
Amma baby care kits
Every mother who gave birth to her child at a government hospital gets 16 types of baby-products worth Rs. 1000 for free.
The kit comes as a carry bag and contains a baby towel, dress, bed, mosquito net, napkin, baby oil, baby soap, bath soap, soap box, liquid sanitizer, nail cutter, rattle, doll, and ‘Sowbhaghya Legiyam’ (a medicinal preparation to improve mother’s health).
Amma salt is affordably-priced quality common salt made by the Tamil Nadu Salt Corporation that comes in three variations — Double Fortified Salt, Refined Free Flow Iodised Salt and Low Sodium Salt. They are distributed through government-run PDS outlets.
Launched in 2014 when the cement prices were sky-rocketting, Tamil Nadu Cements Limited would sell cement for as little as Rs. 190 a bag of 50 kg. The cements are stocked and sold through Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation.
Amma grinder, mixie, table fan
The first budget after AIADMK came back to power in 2011 allotted Rs.1,250 crore for providing free table fan, mixie and grinder for the poor. Over the next five years the government not only managed to cover a large base but also opened exclusive centres for repair and maintenance of these electric items.
In a bid to encourage farmers to use certified seeds for sowing, the AIADMK government launched Amma seeds this year. The Tamil Nadu State Seeds Development Agency implements the scheme that would give away seeds for free. The agency also provides subsidised kits for the urban folks to cultivate vegetable farming in smaller land and roof-tops.
Pannai Pasumai Nugarvor Kootturavu Kadai
A rare scheme that does not carry Amma tagline, the cooperative fair price vegetable shops sell farm-fresh vegetables in cities at low costs. On the first day of its launch in 2013, these shops sold tomatoes for Rs.30 when the market price was around Rs. 50. The huge price variation makes sure the vegetables are sold out within hours in these fair price shops.
Amma service centre
The local bodies on every Wednesday hold Amma Makkal Sevai Maiyam to facilitate delivery of public services such as issue of birth and death certificates, trade licences, ration cards, drinking water and sewage connections, permission for building and so on.
Amma call centre
Any public grievance, just call toll-free number 1100. The details given by the callers will be sent to officials concerned through e-mail, phone call and text messages. The caller too would be informed about the officer, who has been informed of the complaint and further the action taken on it.
Special Amma camps
If service centres are for the urban audience, then Amma camps are for the rural people. Government officials visit villages and solve their grievances of the public at their doorstep. The dates are announced in advance through public broadcast systems.
Free mobile phones were given to SHGs. The monthly cost for operating the phones would be borne by the Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women.
These fair price pharmacies sell both branded and generic drugs priced lower than the market rates. Since the medicines are procured directly from the drug companies, they are sold with a lower profit margin, thus making it cheaper than most pharma retailers.
Amma micro loans scheme
This scheme was launched to provide micro loans for small traders who were affected by last year’s floods. The traders can avail loan upto Rs.5,000 from banks and the government will pay the interest. They can repay it as little as Rs. 200 a week. Those who pay on time are eligible for higher loans upto Rs. 25,000.
Amma Arogya Thittam
The scheme offers master-health check-ups through government-run laboratories and assures treatment through public health centres and government hospitals. The cost of the check-up is one-fifth of what private screening centres offer. Investigations includes tests for cardiac function, cancer and diabetes. Women have separate package such as pap smear and mammogram, vitamin D level, bone density test and parathyroid hormone levels.
Chief Minister's Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme
In 2012, Ms. Jayalalithaa scrapped the existing government health insurance scheme and launched the comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme. Popularly known as Amma mediclaim, under the scheme, the sum assured for each family is Rs.1 lakh per annum for a total period of four years. In the case of certain procedures, the ceiling would be raised to Rs.1.5 lakh per annum.
The new scheme would cover 1,016 procedures, 113 follow up procedures and 23 diagnostic procedures. The cost of tests required for treatment would also be part of the insurance cover.
Amma Theatre project
The project was envisaged by Chennai Corporation’s budget under which U-certified Tamil films will be screened in corporation-run theatres for as low as Rs. 10 per ticket.
The Amma gymnasiums will be constructed in rural areas with an estimated cost of Rs. 10 lakh each. These gymnasiums will be attached to a park.