Patna, Feb 12: Showering largesses, Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi today announced free electricity to small farmers owning up to five acres of land for agriculture purpose and promised to double the cap if he gets a chance to continue in office.
"I will call a meeting of the state cabinet in a day or two to approve the proposal of providing free electricity to small farmers owning up to five acres for agricultural purpose," Manjhi, who is locked in a power struggle with Nitish Kumar and has to prove his strength in the Assembly on February 20, said in his speech after inaugurating 'Agro Bihar 2015' organised by Agriculture Department.
Spelling out the rationale for providing free electricity, he said at present people "manage" the payment of energy bill by giving bribe to officials so it is better to make it free for small farmers.
"Against a bill of Rs 5000 they pay a bribe of Rs 2000 to officials to settle it and the state government gets nothing in its kitty," he said, sending the audience into peels of laughter.
Manjhi said in a bid to remove middleman, he would direct officials to give the subsidy on purchase of farm equipment directly in bank account of farmers after certifying that they have bought ISI brand machine from any shop.
For his SC/ST communities, his core support base, Manjhi promised to enhance subsidy for them for the purchase of farm equipment to 80 per cent from about 60 per cent at present.
The announcements come close on the heels of other populist decisions like reserving contract work for SC/ST for upto Rs 70 lakh, lowering attendance requirement from 75 per cent to 60 per cent for general and 55 per cent for SC/ST schools students and constructing press clubs in 36 districts of Bihar.
These were approved in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh hit out at former Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar for having an 'anti-farmer' approach and "trying to destablise" the Manjhi government which was working for the welfare of farmers and the poor.