‘Who will cry when I die?’, this question has clearly been answered, in her case, when almost twelve million commoners flooded in, teary-eyed, to pay their last respects to her mortal remains.
Her death, has affected the common men, mostly because of the respect that they hold for her.
As much as she has been criticized throughout her political career this five-time Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu has introduced many schemes that have benefitted the common man.
Amma unavagams (canteens)
The politicians and the rich public have disapproved of this move, stating that when food is given at such a low cost, people tend to become lazy and careless about earning a living. But, when a vast majority of the society comes under the lower strata then this is one of the easiest ways for them to save what they earn after filling their tummies. We also have to note that a lot of people cannot afford meals that even the low-end restaurants have to offer, such people have highly benefited from these canteens.
Amma kudineer thittam (drinking water)
Amma water is also a scheme that has been targeted at people belonging to the lower strata of the society. It makes it possible for the people who work as daily wage workers to afford good quality water. They are also earning more, as they do not suffer from infections, drinking dirty and untreated water.
Amma master health checkup & Amma marunthagam (pharmacies)
The poor, very often do not visit hospitals as they fear that it may burn a hole in their pocket. This often leads to their death, as they do not receive any/proper health care. These health checkups are done in government run laboratories. In these health checkups, women also have special schemes that let them go in for pap smear, mammogram, bone density test, etc. The pharmacies gave medicines for the poor at a much lower rate that helped improve their health status.
In this scheme, farmers were given high quality, high yielding seeds at a lower cost. This allowed them to compete with the relatively rich farmers without losing out on their total income.
Salt is one of the most important commodity that we need in our daily lives. Amma saw to it that this essential product reached the houses of the common man.
In Chennai, a lot of interior places were left uncovered by any public transports. To reach these places one had to either, take the auto, drive themselves or walk long distances. These small buses cater to the public, who cannot afford the lofty rates demanded by the autos, helping them reach their destination.
Thalliku thangam thittam (gold for women getting married)
Marriage is considered the most important part of a women’s life and in Tamil Nadu, women wear a yellow thread which bears a symbolic gold pendant to show their marital status. Amma gave away gold to poor women who were getting married.
These were distributed to students, so that they can use the internet to learn more than what they are taught at school and to help them climb out their poverty.
Amma gave away cycles for the under privileged students, so that they can reach schools, that were sometimes, very far away from their houses and couldn’t be reached by public transport. This increased the number of children who were going to school drastically, thereby increasing the number of literate people in the state.
Along with these, she introduced various other schemes that were targeted at the poor, common men who usually go unnoticed by most of us.
Even though there were several corruption charges against her, these schemes made her, the crowd’s favorite. And past all her negatives, her schemes made the lives of these people, that tiny bit, more comfortable and easier.
With all the criticisms aimed towards her, her powerful feminist attitude kept her going, as a single woman, in a patriarchal society, as conservative as Tamil Nadu.
Her schemes also, expressing the feminist in her, targeted in empowering the women of the state. She, clearly, believed that the power of a woman showed the power of a house, that the power of the women showed the power of the state.
Her strength and resilience can be seen from the fact that she was the unparalleled leader of the male dominated AIADMK. From the fact that she held the highest office five times, playing dirty politics, at par with extremely chauvinistic men.
The question now is that, in her absence, will these notable schemes be continued. Or will they also die an unnatural and sudden death, like their creator, causing agony to the common man.
She has done her part in uprising the common man. Now let us hope that her successors continue this remarkable journey with her commands on their shoulder.
From Melukote to Marina, she has captured the hearts of many. First, as an actress, then as a politician. In both the cases she hasn’t failed to win the common man.
The tears are proof.
Amirtha Varshini , B.Sc Botany, Women’s Christian College ,Chennai