The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalitha of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam passed away on 5th December, after a pro-longed battle that lasted 75 days. Jayalalitha served as the chief Minister of the state for about 5 times from 1989 while being the General Secretary of AIADMK. Jayalalitha was a former actress who entered politics under the tutelage of M.G. Ramachandran (commonly known as MGR), the founder of AIADMK. She was the first female as well as the youngest person to hold the post of Chief Minister in Tamil Nadu.
DMK founder Annadurai started the policies of popular appeasement in TN. However, it was Jayalalitha often fondly called as ‘Amma’ (Mother) or ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ (Revolutionary Leader) who managed to implement them efficiently, transforming TN into a modern welfare state. During Amma’s tenure, the literacy rate had been steadily increasing and is now well above the national average. TN has also become the second largest GDP contributing state of the country in the year 14-15, after Maharashtra while being ranked third for industrial growth after Maharashtra and Gujarat. Chennai, the capital of TN transformed into an Autohub, hence also known as the ‘Detroit of Asia’. It was because rapid progress was undertaken in public services, as well as healthcare that TN is ranked first and second respectively nationwide.
The welfare state under Jayalalitha though racked up a huge amount of debt through its freebie culture; it would be safe to say that it wouldn’t be a problem as long its growing GDP can bear the brunt. Reminiscent of the Nordic economic model, TN offers quality services of a welfare state while remaining one of the freest markets and without its steep taxation rates. Other things which deserve a mention are the schemes which catapulted her to deity status. The very first scheme launched was the ‘Cradle Baby Scheme’ which was very progressive due to its nature. To curb female infanticide, several centers were set up to receive unwanted female children which could be later put up for abortion. Later under the Gold for Marriage scheme about 4 grams of gold and about 50,000 rupees to women who are financially backward but have obtained either a degree or a diploma. The start of the branding of ‘Amma’ was done with ‘Amma Canteen’ for the hungry where food was made available to the deprived at dirt-cheap prices and later through ‘Amma Drinking Water’, cheapest drinking water in India at the State bus depots. To facilitate agriculture and infrastructure, subsidized seeds, as well as cement, have been made available via ‘Amma Service Centres’ throughout the state. Another scheme which enjoyed large support was ‘Amma” laptops where laptops were distributed free of cost to the students based on their performance in schools and colleges. Jayalalitha empowered women through monetary incentives especially the ones from rural and the backward communities.
During Jayalalitha’s term as the CM, she banned the state lottery although that cost the state revenue. She also cut down on state outlets for liquor and changed their timings. She also made Tamil Nadu’s experiment with Rain Water Harvesting into a success by imposing it mandatorily.
On the other hand, Jayalalitha’s government has often been accused of corruption. Jayalalitha herself has been charged with the charges of wide corruption and enormous disproportionate assets. However, it should be noted that she was acquitted every time.
The point being made here would be, the social welfare, without denying did come along with its criticisms and problems, but looking at the development of TN under this charismatic leader is important. Even more important is the rise of Jayalalitha and the later modeling of herself as ‘the Mother’ or symbolically the real caretaker, the one who genuinely looked after the needs of the common man while alleviating oneself to the near iconic status
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