It takes a female to understand another. And an exploited one can understand the situation better. Perhaps, that was the reason why only Jayalalitha could come up with the ‘Thottil Kuzhandhai” or “Cradle Baby” scheme.
It is a fact we live in a society, where parents had to be reminded by the government to get their children vaccinated.
Female infanticide is a dastardly custom practice that is practised throughout India. If pre-natal tests were used to identify the gender of foetus only to abort the pregnancy in case if it turns to be a female, there are many other ways through which baby girls were abandoned or killed. In rural Tamilnadu, grains of rice is put in the mouth of new born girl child. The death of the new born due to suffocation is simply unimaginable.
To stop people from committing such a horrendous crime, when she was the chief minister for the first time, Jayalalitha introduced the ‘Thottil (Cradle/tub) Kuzhandhai (children)” scheme. She set up centres in few districts where gender ratio was more screwed. Each centre has one superintendent, one nurse, one assistant and some workers – to look after the kids.
Maybe there are numerous rights we are supposed to have as detailed in the constitution. From time to time, governments have introduced many other rights ranging from the much famous RTI, RTE to ‘right to food’. All these are good schemes to have. But, what Jayalalitha gave to those children who would otherwise have been killed was the ‘right to live’.
People used to drop their kids in the cradle kept outside of the centres. And these centres received not only girls but even boys from poor families. In 2011, there were about 188 centres in many districts of Tamilnadu and she was planning to increase number of centres.
More than 5000 children were received by these centres over years. Many of them were given for adoption. Few were taken back by their parents. These centres also counsel parents who were abandoning their girl child, sometimes successfully.
Of course, there were critics of the scheme harping on the negligence children in government centres were subjected to. Some queried about having no records of current status of those children given for adoption. A case was filed on how these children were denied right to be with their parents; a strange argument considering it was the parents who gave up their new born kids. As one officer put it, ‘It is better to live’ and they got their right to live.
For all these thousands of children, who would have been dead otherwise, Jayalalitha is their Amma in true sense. Maybe that is why when people addressed her ‘Amma’, it is not considered a term in line with sycophancy, but a true love for one’s mother.