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Amma kits for newborns

Jayalalithaa at the launch of Amma Salt

Chennai, Aug. 12: Newborns have just got a fairy grandmother.

Chief minister Jayalalithaa today announced free “Amma Baby Care Kits” for newborns delivered in government hospitals, living up to her popular sobriquet Amma (mother).

While the intended beneficiaries are babies, it’s their mothers who would be thanking Amma for her munificence.

The kits, to be given to mothers immediately after delivery, would include a mattress, mosquito net, towel, nappies, baby oil, soap and shampoo, doll, rattle, nail clipper, sanitiser, soap and an Ayurvedic oral preparation to boost mother’s milk, the AIADMK chief told the Tamil Nadu Assembly.

The kits — Rs 1,000 each — would benefit 6.7 lakh children and cost the state Rs 67 crore, she said.

Nithya Jagadeesan, an obstetrician, said it was a “welcome” move. “Many poor families don’t come prepared with even the basic necessities while admitting a pregnant woman in government hospitals. It would help improve the personal hygiene of mothers and also the newborn.”

Others said the kits would help the “Amma” brand name achieve its closet emotional connect since they also celebrate motherhood.

The baby-care kit is the latest among the welfare schemes the Jayalalithaa government has rolled out in the past two years under the “Amma” brand name, leveraging the Tamil word “Amma”, used by AIADMK cadres to describe their leader.

Among the other schemes that have been introduced under the Amma brand name are low-cost canteens, bottled drinking water, salt, provision stores and pharmacies. Since Jayalalithaa’s photograph is stamped on the products and on boards outside the canteens and shops, no one is left in doubt about which Amma to thank.

The Amma products are priced lower than those produced by private players. A one-litre bottle of Amma drinking water, for example, costs Rs 10, half of that marketed by private companies.

Salt marketed by private producers in the open market are priced at Rs 25, Rs 21 and Rs 14 for low sodium, double fortified and refined free flow iodised salt. The government sells the same varieties of Amma Salt at Rs 21, Rs 14 and Rs 10.

The success of these products has now prompted the Tamil Nadu Tea Plantation Corporation, a state government enterprise, to think of launching Amma Tea. “We produce 60,000kg of tea daily — organic, green and, of course, the regular variety — which are sold in auction to traders. Only 10 per cent is sold directly in the retail market. If we can package the tea and sell them under a brand name, we can increase our profitability. Since the Amma brand name has caught on, we will soon launch packaged tea as ‘Amma Tea’,” said a senior official.

The Chennai Corporation is in the process of identifying community halls where its Amma Theatres will screen movies with low ticket prices during weekends.

A schoolteacher summed it up nicely. “Very soon, virtually every social activity in Tamil Nadu will have an Amma connection,” the teacher quipped while savouring his sambar rice — at an Amma Canteen.