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‘‘It has been three months since the exhaust fans stopped working. How many times can we explain ladies’ issues to the men? That is the hardest part. File image/ PTI. With promises of a great future, women from self-help groups came forward to run the Tamil Nadu government’s subsidised canteens in 2013. Salma continues, “My husband passed away in 2015, six months after we set-up this Amma Unavagam. We are tired of complaining. These shocking, unspoken rules— like working 365 days a year— that have become normalised over half a decade appear to form the basis of the workers’ discontent. “Every day we sell 1,200 idlis and 250 plates of sambar and curd rice. With a large ladle in one hand, she briskly scoops the freshly-made white batter into the moistened stainless steel plate she is holding in her other. “I had to finish all the formalities after the death so I couldn’t come to work. The significance and relevance of the Amma Unavagam (Amma Canteens) – an initiative towards urban food security by providing cheap food to anyone who wants it – has to be seen in the context of growth. 150 kilometres away from the state capital, in neighbouring Vellore district, 50-year-old Salma* pulls back the frayed end of her bright-green saree to reveal chipped off toenails and multiple cuts. “Every day, we pour our blood and sweat into this place. Staff said customers stopped coming as fans don’t run and tables aren’t replaced. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today launched Amma Call Centre for ensuring quick delivery of government services. Bhavani* and her colleagues have just finished preparing sambhar rice and curd rice— they are awaiting customers shortly. With idlis available for Rs 1, chapatis for Rs 1.50 and rice varieties for Rs 3, the canteens are beloved by students, labourers, the poor and homeless — groups late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had in mind when she created the scheme in 2013. In 2001 when Dry Hank McKinley took over as Chairman and CEO of the company, Pfizer was very stable and financially sound. 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And exactly three years since the death of Jayalalithaa, the workers who were once encouraged to set up budget canteens to serve the poor are now disillusioned about their future. They don’t show it to us.”. “There are ways to revive the canteens, each corporation will come up with ideas that are suited for their localities. Is there any other place in the city, where I can have food for the same cost?” asked Maghendran, a college student in Tiruchy. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time. BSF 56th Raising Day: Will protect country from infiltration by Pak, says DG Rakesh Asthana. We cannot expect all the people who come here to maintain it in a clean way,” she laments. The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. For growth to be inclusive, the precariat (those without any security in the towns and cities) have to be supported with the basic minimums. (Top) A man having lunch inside an Amma Unavagam on Demellows Road in Chennai; CHENNAI: From poor infrastructure to increasing working hours of canteen staff, problems are aplenty at Amma Unavagams. ‘‘Today, we make Rs 900 at breakfast, about Rs 550 for lunch and Rs 600 in the evening to make a total of Rs 2,000… In four years, a number of idlis sold per day has fallen from 1,500 to 650’’ she said. It has been a tiring six hours of non-stop work. Old menus  Express visited several canteens in Chennai and found many infrastructure issues. While the project was seen as a welfare initiative and never intended to make profits, its sales have been declining. Yet, today, the workers not only complain of stagnant wages but the declining patronage of these once-popular canteens has also meant that employee rights for these women are practically non-existent. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Last Updated: 16th June 2019 04:26 PM Courtesy: Facebook: @ammaunavagam. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. We carry a large menu of items from different regions of India and we strive to fulfill diverse needs of a family dining needs when it comes to Indian cuisine. But when the crowds started dwindling, people from TASMAC have begun entering the canteen at all hours. Over six years after its launch however, the women who run the canteens are concerned about the current state of affairs in the Amma Unavagam. Amma Unavagam . Courtesy: Facebook: @ammaunavagam, How have things changed since? This has made it difficult for us to get our children ready for school,’’ said the SHG member in Burma Nagar. The outlet used to prepare three meals a day— including the chapati-kurma between 6 pm and 9 pm— with the women working in shifts. As the traffic begins to pick up pace in the busier parts of the city, Parvathy* finds the weather far from welcoming. Still loved by regulars But all they did was send an official with a garland to our house, after my husband died,” she says through tears. “Initially, there would be weekly meetings and inspections. The popularity of the Amma Unavagams was such that the project was replicated in Karnataka as Indira Canteens. During the summer months, when many parts of the state were facing an acute water shortage, the Amma Unavagams had to rely entirely on their own staff to fetch pots of water from the tanker lorries for cooking, cleaning, drinking and bathroom use. Amma Unavagam - an initiative towards urban food security by providing cheap food to anyone who wants it - has to be seen in the context of growth. Support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here. Amma unavagam is not available in night so there is no dinner provided by them. Ironically this has left the project hamstrung. Show us some love! The Chennai corporation has also been trimming the staff. However reports suggest that the government may consider bringing in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funding to the scheme by bringing it under a trust. Parvathy, like hundreds of women across Tamil Nadu, works at Amma Unavagam, the popular, subsidised canteen introduced by the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in February 2013. Amma Unavagam – Findings from an exploratory study (Part II) “Inexpensiveness is the USP and it eclipses the deficiencies”, began an expatriate working in the Gulf, who was visiting his hometown on a holiday. ‘‘One year ago, they cut the number of shifts from three to two. The government needs to update the menu,” said a worker at an Amma Unavagam near the railway junction in Tiruchy. The only way to tell that it is an Amma Unavagam is the familiar green and white paint and the unmistakable fragrance of sambhar rice at lunch time. Though the restaurant chain is serving a large part of the under privileged population but the government had faced huge loss while running the service. All were united in the view that a change in menu would improve sales. Courtesy: Manasa Rao/ The News Minute. The canteens are still popular, they are not beyond salvaging yet.”. There is no leave for anyone, even on festival days. I have to pay basic fees even if it is a government college, you know? There is no safety for us here. During the national lockdown due to Corona / COVID-19, the Amma Unavagam has served as the food delivery system for the Greater Chennai Corporation . 1 arresonende de custu. Their wages are only Rs 250 per day. So we would come early in the morning, make tiffin and we would struggle to even give out tokens to those waiting in line for lunch.”, A file image of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa serving food at a newly-inaugurated Amma Unavagam. File image. Most of the women here are widows with young children who need the support of a system like SHG. After it stopped working, officials never replaced it. Tomorrow if there is an issue here and we need their help, they will not come forward. “It was a pet project of Amma herself so we cannot touch it,” one corporation official puts it. La réponse est peut-être ici ! “Patients or visitors who come a bit late are forced to leave hungry and some chide us for not preparing more food to meet the demand,” said a worker who did not wish to be named. Real Madrid player ratings: Zidane's Los Blancos beaten 2-0 by Shakhtar in Champions League, who failed to deliver? According to the 2019-20 Tamil Nadu Budget, the income from Amma Canteens for 2017-18 was Rs 30.46 crore. Amma Unavagam (meaning "Mother Restaurant" in Tamil) is a food subsidization program run by the Government of Tamil Nadu in India. However, fears of corporate involvement only adds to the woes of the workers who wonder why the government that recruited them can't now address their basic demands. Amma Canteens might be considered analogous to soup kitchens in the United States and contribute to urban food security by… The salary for 12 staff is about Rs 1.1 lakh while our canteen hardly makes Rs 50,000 a month,’’ said an SHG member in Ennore. ‘‘If she was there, she would have surely upgraded the menu and would have taken care of us,’’ said an SHG member in Ennore. All I spend is Rs 4 for breakfast. Thiruvottyur - 1 J.J.NAGAR, Kathivakkam High Road ,Ennore ,Chennai Get Directions Thiruvottyur - 2 CYCLONE SHELTER, THAZHANKUPPAM QUARTERS, ENNORE, CH-57 Get Directions Thiruvottyur - 3 No.267-A, Shopping Complex campus, K.H Road, Ennore, Chennai-57. “Whenever we ask the officials for something, they ask us to do it ourselves. There has been a marginal dip in sales”, says a worker in the Jan Bazaar Amma Canteen in Tiruchy. Combien de temps vous reste-t-il ? We were accountable to each other. While 200 canteens were set up initially, now there are 407 across the State now. The Amma canteen scheme has been beset with allegations of corruption in hiring, raw material and equipment procurement. So much of our money is going in just the repairs which the government can easily do for us, ” says Usha*  from one Chennai canteen. “It has been difficult to manage funding. Amma Unavagam – is a latest social welfare initiative of the State Government to tackle food insecurity of the urban poor by taking a leaf out of cooperative management and social inclusion. My husband works as a construction labourer so there is no work guarantee. Quit tobacco, first, Cyclone Burevi: Rough sea, heavy winds and rainfall on TN coast, Tamil Nadu receives 97 mm rainfall ahead of cyclone Burevi, no damage reported so far. Shift timings too have changed. The premises had a CCTV camera in the first year. We can’t afford to delay cooking by even 10 minutes. In Coimbatore, the shifts are from 4am to 10am and 9am to 4pm, forcing the women to travel to work in the wee hours. The income estimate for 2019-20 is  Customers agreed. Otherwise, I go to the nearby stalls as they provide chutney and kuruma which the Amma Unavagam doesn’t,’’ said R Devarajan, a fisherman. Rajapalayam South police issued a … "Amma" means mother in Tamil but clearly here refers to the former Chief Minister Ms. J. Jayalalithaa , who introduced this restaurant concept aimed at helping the very poor sections of the society. An Amma Unavagam worker stirring curd rice at lunch time. While lack of adequate funding has been a major issue for one of the most popular projects launched by late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, regular customers are slowly shying away from the outlets due to lack of variety in the menu. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Cuts in food stock purchases seem to have been made across the board, affecting even canteens which enjoy good patronage such as the Amma Unavagam functioning out of the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital premises. Courtesy: Manasa Rao/ The News Minute. A cool, inviting breeze blows through the streets of Chennai on a pleasant September morning. “For the last two years I have regularly been having my breakfast here. A file image of a worker serving lemon rice. Express spoke to SHG members working at the canteens in Madurai, Coimbatore, Chennai and Tiruchy. Nowadays, they don’t even pick up our calls when we say that the steamer is not working. Six years later, there has been no hike, they said. We are using common funds to run the canteen,” said a senior official in Ponmalai Municipal Corporation.According to an estimate from one zonal office in Tiruchy, which runs two canteens, the average cost was around Rs 3 lakh a month, while revenue was around Rs 1 lakh. In Madurai, Latha, a housewife at  Ramarayar Mandapam where there is a canteen said, “The canteens must be maintained properly. The Tamil Nadu government has set aside a whopping Rs 100 crore for Amma Unavagam, the subsidised canteens across the state, in its election year budget. These women hoped that under the newly-introduced government scheme, they would no longer have to juggle multiple jobs or be forced to borrow from loan sharks. But, of late, they prefer to eat at other food stalls. So I had to forgo my daily wages,” she reveals. I can’t count the number of times the idli plate has burnt my arms or washing the large pots with the metal scrub has cut my feet and hands,” she says. These issues affected customers’ perception of the canteens. For K Rajivi, an ITI student in Madurai, the Amma Canteen is where he can be assured of a hearty breakfast at low prices. In 2018-19 it decreased to Rs 27.05 crore. From poor infrastructure to increasing working hours of canteen staff, problems are aplenty at Amma Unavagams. Though the food is priced at nominal rates, as a customer I would like to have a variety of food.” Senior officials in Coimbatore, however, said, “Any change of food menu must come from the top.”. At least at this stage, they won’t be abandoned altogether,” says the corporation official, referring to the upcoming local body elections and the 2021 Assembly polls. Workers preparing lunch at Amma Canteen. Amma Unavagam - kodambakkam, Chennai, India 600012 - Rated 4.5 based on 39 Reviews "Really exceptional. Attempts to reach the Corporation Commissioner to talk about the issue went in vain. Issues with Amma Unavagam. There is nobody to clean it when we are working. Adding more items to the menu will cause wastage,” said Raj Kannu, who is in charge of the Amma Canteen at the Madurai Government Rajaji Hospital. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam at Amma Unavagam. It would be good if the officials came and discussed these safety issues with us,” she lists.Meanwhile, officials maintain a guarded silence regarding Amma Unavagam and its activities for any policy decision is taken at the highest levels. We have no plans to cut stafff at the moment,’’ said an official. We are barely able to eat at other food stalls an income of Rs 27.05 crore 2018-! Our own salary canteen made an income of Rs 27.05 crore in 2018- 2019, a drop from Rs crore. Fight for water with the local residents in the first year, an auto driver in Market. Residents in the state of Tamil Nadu, India can not handle cooking, cleaning and the of! 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