Chennai: Now, Tamil Nadu will have Amma gyms and Amma parks— the latest addition to the slew of initiatives under the popular Amma brand.

Chief minister J.Jayalalithaa on Monday announced that Amma parks and Amma gymnasiums will be set up in rural areas. “500 Amma Gyms would be set up in rural areas to promote physical and mental health of youth. This would come up at an estimated total cost of Rs50 crore. Each gym would be set up at a cost of Rs10 lakh," announced Jayalalithaa in the state assembly.

The proposed Amma parks would be established in village panchayats at a cost of 100 crore in this financial year. “The parks would have good drinking water facility, toilets, play equipment for children, cement benches," said Jayalalithaa.

“It (The Amma schemes) can turn into a disadvantage, only if the scheme doesn’t deliver. Suppose the quality is bad, then it will go against the brand. Until the services are delivered properly, it won’t affect the AIAMDK," said Gnani Sankaran, writer and political analyst.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government is also likely to launch weekly Amma markets, which will function as retail outlets.

According to a Deccan Chronicle article (dated June 10), three places in Chennai have been shortlisted already— Arumbakkam, Mint Street and Thiruvanmiyur—to set up the markets.

Amma canteens with 1 idlis and 5 sambhar rice have drawn the attention of politicians from other states.

While Andhra Pradesh recently launched its own Anna canteens, Delhi will soon taste food from the Aam Aadmi canteens.

Apart from the most popular Amma Unnavagam (Amma canteen), the other ones include Amma drinking water, Amma mineral water, Amma salt, Amma Pharmacies, Amma cement, Amma laptops, Amma baby kits, Amma seeds, Amma grinder, mixie and fan, Amma micro loans scheme, Amma call centre, Amma mobile phones for self-help group trainers, Amma fruits & vegetable shops.

With the local body elections slated for October, the government led by former actress Jayalalithaa would be keen to bring up the Amma Theatres, which was proposed in 2014 and is yet to be launched. The theatres which will screen U certificate films will have tickets priced as low as 25.

Freebie culture

DMK party treasurer M.K. Stalin, in the run up for the May assembly elections condemned her freebie culture and the populist schemes as being “nothing more than political gimmicks which do not focus on development".

In fact, it was DMK which brought the freebie culture to Tamil Nadu with “Kalaignar Television sets". Colour TVs were announced and distributed by the then DMK regime in 2006.

While criticizing both the AIADMK and DMK, Gnani said: “AIADMK doesn’t have pretensions of democracy, DMK pretends to be democratic."

Pattali Makkal Katchi has often accused both the DMK and the AIADMK for having made the people of Tamil Nadu “lazy and alcoholics through its freebie culture".

Despite all the criticisms, the brand has been growing strong and the AIADMK is very clear about the target audience. “They target economically weaker sections," said Gnani.

Who has the money to fund?

The fiscal deficit for 2016-17 is estimated at 40,533.84 crore which is 2.96% of the GSDP. “The overall outstanding borrowings of the State has been estimated to be Rs.2,52,431 crores at the end of this financial year," said O. Pannerselvam, finance minister while reading out the revised budget in June.

The revenue deficit for the ongoing financial year has been estimated to be 15,854.47 crore. The interim budget in February ahead of the May assembly election showed that Tamil Nadu faced a revenue deficit of 9,154.78 crore.

While the state coffers continue to remain in debt, there is no dearth with the populist schemes. The state’s debt has seen the maximum increase in debt of 92% over 2011-15, according to analysis by IndiaSpend. This jump in debt has in fact moved the industrial state from a revenue surplus state to a revenue deficit state.

“Many of these measures are welfare measures and any good government would be carrying this out. What they (AIADMK) are doing is trying to convert them into political measures by branding them as ‘Amma’," added Gnani.

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