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Thursday, June 26, 2014

another 'Amma brand' in Tamil Nadu - 'Amma marunthagam' - the medical shop

If media reports are to be believed, the  Narendra Modi government is likely to deliver on the long pending promise of universal healthcare that his predecessor Manmohan Singh shamelessly defaulted on. The Business Standard on Wednesday reported that the the NDA government’s budget will focus on a national health assurance mission, which will provide universal healthcare and comprehensive health insurance for the poor. The report further said that the national health assurance mission is “close to Prime Minister Modi’s heart".

Back home in Tamil Nadu, the 'Amma brand'  adds another commodity to its list. Chief minister J Jayalalithaa is all set to launch Amma Pharmacies on Thursday.  One would nurse different views on what Govt should be doing – but Tamil Nadu CM J. Jayalalithaa took a giant leap forward when in her poll manifesto, she announced distribution of free mixers, grinders, fans, milch cows and goats, laptops to students, bus passes, free bicycles and more.   In Sept 2013, she  distributed free bicycles to Plus One students. A total of 6,43,867 students reportedly benefitted under this scheme which cost the ex-chequer approx 212 crores.   

Chennai is replete with hotels and restaurants – big and small, individual outlets, big chains and franchisees of International brands. There are already some good quality chain restaurants such as Hotel Saravana Bhavan, Sangeetha, Vasantha Bhavan,  Hotchips and more………..still not all could afford the cost…….suddenly the State Government forayed in to food industry setting up Amma Unavagams in all wards in the city, which instantaneously became a very big hit. The glowing success is attributed to good quality food being provided at very low costs.  The intentions are indeed noble -  an effort to provide hygienic food at low prices; the brainchild of Madam Jayalalithaa ‘Amma Unavagams’  exist in all the 200 wards of Chennai Corporation. 

Then came another master stroke - the packaged drinking water project ……. ‘the amma water scheme’ formally launched on 15th Sept. 2013.  The project involved production and packaging of mineral water in 1-litre bottles, and selling them in long-distance running state-owned buses and in bus terminuses. At a time when even little known brands were selling hot, came the low priced Rs.10/- Amma water, quenching the thirst of public. Not sure whether the Amma vegetables were hit in equal measure.

~ and in the State of famed Vedaranyam where Rajaji and others fought British with salt – Ms Jayalalithaa launched ‘amma salt’ recently.  In Tamilnadu Salt Corporation is a fully owned enterprise of the Government of Tamil Nadu, established during 1974 at Valinokkam.  Salt is cultivated in an area of 5524 acres of land  -  "Amma Salt", a product of  TNSC  is available  in three varieties — double fortified, refined free flow iodized and low sodium, the release says.

Following the success of ‘amma products’  - Tamilnadu Chief Minister wants to provide all kinds of medicines, from routine to life saving drugs at affordable costs to the common man. The government also plans to set up a computerized database later for this scheme. Today there is advertisements in newspapers of opening of ‘Amma Marunthagam (medical shops)’  across Tamil Nadu, a proposal that promises to win more goodwill for chief minister J Jayalalithaa, reiterating her commitment towards creating a welfare state, these Amma pharmacies will sell medicines at a subsidised rate. A senior official said the cooperative department has been working hard for the launch of the Amma medical shops in 100 places. The shops are ready and staff is being recruited. Officials said 10 shops will be opened in Chennai and 90 in the rest of the state. “A few cooperative shops in Tamil Nadu have been selling medicines without service tax. The idea of opening medical shops is to ensure sale of medicine at reasonable price,“ an official said. The government had announced that Rs.20 crore will be used from the price distribution fund for opening Amma pharmacies.


According to officials, a detailed survey was undertaken to identify areas to set up the outlets. “We identified localities where the demand is high and where there were few or no medical shops. The scheme may well help to rein in retail margins and act as a check against sharp practices. Though Amma pharmacies would be  limited and may not totally fulfill the demand of the people, Govt selling medicines at correct prices will give a run for some shops which have been making extraordinary profits.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

26th June 2014.

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