Message in a bottle: Jaya's water scheme an instant success

After the "Amma restaurants" that sell hot cooked meals at dirt cheap rates, Tamil Nadu chief minister's new venture of packaged drinking water has turned out to be a runaway hit.

Launched three days ago, bottled drinking water named after her is a sensation in the state, particularly at the bus terminals in Chennai. Compared to the other brands, "Amma Kudineer" (Amma drinking water) is priced at Rs 10 and is sold in 200 outlets across the state.

Close to 40 shops are in the city, out of which 12 are at the massive Koyambedu bus terminus. Reportedly, the water bottles are sold out at Koyambedu terminus by afternoon. This enterprise is managed by the transport department.

Encouraged by the response, authorities are planning to scale up operations with more shops.

 Message in a bottle: Jayas water scheme an instant success

The bottles of Amma drinking water that is being sold in the state. Firstpost

In a country, where conventional social-protection measures and market interventions by the state are increasingly seen with derision, Jayalalithaa's initiatives do reiterate the role of the state in taking care of its people and price control. Tamil Nadu has a universal PDS system, fair price shops for vegetables, timely market interventions when prices of essential goods rise and now it's engaged in bottled water.

The bottled water project might invite some criticism because a more egalitarian approach could have been universal potable water. However, this could seen as a market intervention since other brands sell one litre bottles at Rs 18.

The Amma restaurants have clearly demonstrated that cash transfers are no comparison to an effective public distribution system that reaches out to be people in kind. If the government gives Rs 1 to the needy, will anybody in the state give him/her a plate of "idli-sambar"?

As the elections approach, there could be more on the anvil.

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Updated Date: Sep 18, 2013 20:14:28 IST