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Amma canteens serve hungry residents as cyclone Vardah pounds Chennai


CHENNAI: Chennai may have had another tryst with extreme weather — Monday’s supercyclone Vardah with wind speeds of 120+kmph — but former chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s most far-reaching welfare project, Amma canteens, ensured that Chennai did not have to bear the ordeal on an empty stomach.

Amma canteens, despite the category 5 storm on Monday, continued to serve food free of cost, as it has since the state went into mourning after Jayalalithaa’s demise on December 5.

When the city shut down on December 6 as a mark of respect to Jayalalithaa, of all the government’s services, only the Amma canteens remained open and served up hot food to residents, especially homeless citizens. Best of all was that the indigent did not have to even pay the nominal price that the canteens charge for the food. It was completely free.

Centralised canteens distribute food to most of the canteens so the supply chain was relatively unaffected at most of the 407 canteens in the city. In the canteens not covered by the centralised network, the women who run the show ensured that not one customer returned home with an empty tummy.

The Amma canteen on Nandanam Extension, 10th Street, was a perfect example of selflessness on Monday. The street leading to the canteen may have been covered by uprooted trees and fallen branches, but the cooks checked in by 5am nonetheless. After the breakfast schedule ended, the cyclone forced the women to stay put in the safety of the canteen building.

Around 2pm, after strong gusts of wind ravaged the canteen’s surroundings, the women invited customers to grab a plate of piping hot food. A garlanded portrait of Jayalalithaa and a lit bunch of incense sticks were placed in front of the meal counter.

This correspondent was offered a hot and sumptuous plate of sambar-rice and lemon-rice. The sambar-rice was as good as any that can command a price of of Rs 40 at a regular restaurant — except for the fact that restaurants were all closed on Monday.

Greater Chennai Corporation city health officer Dr N A Senthilnathan said the local body would ensure uninterrupted supply of food to the Amma canteens, so the weaker sections don’t go hungry at a time of distress.

Source: Times of india

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