New Delhi: The Tamil Nadu government’s decision to shut all Amma mini-clinics in the state due to their “non-performance” has angered the main Opposition party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), and its breakaway faction, the Amma Makkal Munnettra Kazagam (AMMK).
Amma is an affectionate moniker for the state’s late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, who was the leader of the AIADMK. In December 2020, the former AIADMK government set up close to 2,000 Amma mini-clinics to provide essential healthcare services to the poor.
However, in a statement Tuesday, state Health Minister Ma. Subramanian said the clinics were just a “temporary” scheme.
“The clinics were a one-year temporary scheme and 1,820 doctors were appointed. There were no nurses, the clinics were set up at buildings that were functioning for different purposes,” Subramanian said. He added that the services of the doctors had been used during the Covid-19 pandemic and would be extended for the same purpose until March 2022, after which the government would use them “appropriately” in other jobs.
“[The clinics] were kept open, but the question is, did they function effectively?” he asked. He also said that the clinics had been kept open so far on purely “humanitarian” grounds by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government, which came to office last year.
The Opposition parties have reacted with fury to the move, which the DMK had been working towards for several months.
In a series of tweets, Leader of the Opposition and joint coordinator of the AIADMK E. Palaniswami lashed out at the DMK government. He said the Amma mini-clinics were set up to serve the rural and urban poor and shutting them down reaffirmed to him that the DMK government “does not care about the welfare of the poor and common people”.
இத்திட்டம் இந்த விடியா அரசால் மூடப்படுகிறது என்ற அறிவிப்பு வன்மையான கண்டனத்திற்குரியது.
ஏழை எளிய மக்களின் நலனில் அக்கறையில்லாத அரசு என்பதை இந்த விடியா அரசு மீண்டும் உறுதிப்படுத்தியுள்ளது.(2/2) pic.twitter.com/VjjzSJGyGY
— Edappadi K Palaniswami (@EPSTamilNadu) January 4, 2022
T.T.V. Dhinakaran, the nephew of Jayalalithaa’s close aide V.K. Sasikala and the leader of the AMMK, also took to Twitter to call the move “unacceptable” and “reprehensible”.
தமிழகம் முழுவதும் அம்மா மினி கிளினிக்குகள் மூடப்பட்டிருப்பதாக மக்கள் நல்வாழ்வுத் துறை அமைச்சர் கூறியிருப்பது கண்டனத்திற்குரியது. அரசியல் காழ்ப்புணர்ச்சியால் மேற்கொள்ளப்படும் இத்தகைய நடவடிக்கைகள் ஏற்றுக்கொள்ள முடியாதவை. (1/4)
— TTV Dhinakaran (@TTVDhinakaran) January 4, 2022
Dhinakaran acknowledged that there were shortcomings in the functioning of the clinics, but said that they had been set up in the interest of the people. “The DMK is in the process of closing down all projects in the name of the revolutionary ‘Amma’… After the Amma mini-clinics, will they also shut the Amma canteens meant for feeding the poor?” he asked.
Speaking to ThePrint, senior AIADMK leader and former state cabinet minister C. Ponnaiyan termed the move “sheer political vendetta” by the DMK government.
Replying to these allegations, DMK spokesperson Saravanan Annadurai told ThePrint that the former government had merely appropriated primary health centres set up by the earlier government and renamed them.
Clinics were functioning well, AIADMK says; DMK claims opposite
According to C. Ponnaiyan, the Amma mini-clinics were functioning “exceptionally well” and shutting them down was just a way of targeting the AIADMK.
“In remote villages, these clinics provide access to essential care and help in terms of minor injuries, blood pressure check-ups, providing glucose and electrolytes. I myself have seen this while setting up some of the Amma mini-clinics,” he said.
Ponnaiyan alleged that the government was deliberately withholding the required medicines from the mini-clinics, and was similarly not providing enough rations to Amma canteens.
“They (DMK) are trying to remove Amma from across the state. By doing this, they are trying to remove the AIADMK, but that will not happen,” he said.
DMK spokesperson Saravanan Annadurai said that such allegations were unfounded, and that the AIADMK had renamed primary health centres (PHCs) set up by the earlier government as Amma mini-clinics and had not staffed them with any new nurses or doctors.
“They did this to take credit for the PHCs just before the state elections and we had protested against it then as well. What is the point of continuing something that is not running?” Annadurai said.
“They (AIADMK) always want to appropriate what has already been created. And this time that cannot be allowed,” he added.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has in the past earned praise for encouraging a more amicable political culture in a state known for its acrimonious rivalries. He retained photos of Jayalalithaa and Edappadi Palaniswami on 65 lakh school bags meant for free distribution, included former AIADMK health minister C. Vijayabaskar on the state’s Covid advisory panel, and went to condole with former deputy CM O. Panneerselvam when the latter’s wife passed away.
However, there has been sniping over the Amma mini-clinic issue since September last year, with the AIADMK protesting against the state government’s claims that the healthcare facilities lacked infrastructure and were not run well.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)