Amma Canteens have sold 24.01 crore idlis!
Chennai Corporation officials, who have been keeping track of the quantity of food sold at each Amma canteen, announced that the canteens have sold a total of 24.01 crore idlis since their inception. There are now 252 canteens in Chennai alone. Nearly 5,000 women members from self-help groups are involved in the running of these canteens, which require Rs.90 crore every year to run.
In February 2013, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa launched the Amma canteens in Chennai. These canteens soon became extremely popular, serving idlis at just Rs.1, sambar rice at Rs.5 and curd rice at Rs.3. They attracted a large variety of customers since they provided a large variety of food at very affordable prices, making it possible for even the poor to fill their stomachs.
These canteens are run by women from self-help groups who are paid Rs.200 a day for their work. Despite being budget canteens, the food quality is good and hygienic and the customers are even served purified water.
In June 2013, the state government, after great public response, set up Amma canteens in Coimbatore, Madurai, Trichy, Tirunelvelli, Tuticorin, Salem, Erode, Vellore and Tirupur. Just a year later, in June 2014, the canteens were still so popular that Jayalalithaa announced the setting up of 360 more canteens across Tamil Nadu. Jayalalithaa called these canteens the "bedrock of the poor".
Coimbatore and Madurai were also to get one more Amma canteen each. Chennai's 200 hospital-wards, which already had one Amma canteen each,were also to get one more canteen. With the increasing number of canteens,there would be 654 canteens in total,serving the poor and the urban people. A point of pride was that Egypt praised these canteens and expressed desires to set up the same.
Jayalalithaa set up the Amma canteens as a welfare scheme just ahead of elections. The canteens provided anyone with Rs.13 in their pocket two square meals a day and the move catapulted her to a victory in the elections
The setting up of the Amma Canteens certainly made Jayalalithaa very popular with the public. As a mark of gratitude, to celebrate the swearing in of Jayalalithaa, free food was served at all of the new 45 canteens in Chennai. These new canteens, set up in areas not previously served, were having their trial run. The supply of sweets was definitely the most attractive.
Other states have also been trying to get into the Amma canteen business. Delhi is the latest to express a desire to set up 'Aam Aadmi' canteens, based on the Amma model.