Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Sunday kicked off his campaign for the assembly elections, announcing several sops for farmers, one of the more attractive ones being a foreign trip to learn farming techniques.
"Ministers have visited enough of foreign countries, now farmers will get a chance to go abroad and see for themselves how farmers there have adopted technology for improved yield," Chouhan said at Kisan Mahapanchayat held at Jamboree Maidan in the city.
With BJP president Rajnath Singh in attendance, Chouhan said farmers should also considering starting small-scale industries to supplement their income.
"The state government will help them with loans of up to Rs. 25 lakh and also provide guarantee to banks for loans," Chouhan, who is targeting a third straight term as CM, added.
He also announced that from now on farmers would pay electricity bills only twice a year after Rabi and Kharif crops - and at a fixed rate of R1,200 per horse power per year. Moreover, cases against farmers on matters related to electricity would be settled by organising lok adalats, he added.
In his address, Singh said the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) had noted widespread irregularities in the Centre's Rs. 60,000 crore loan waiver for farmers.
"The CAG report should be tabled in Parliament." He demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the loan waiver scheme of 2008.
"Under the scheme, agricultural loans of over 3.5 crore farmers were waived. But according to the CAG, which has audited nearly 90,000 accounts, many farmers did not receive the benefits," Singh said.
Assembly elections in MP are due by November.