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Dalit MLA is Bihar CM's ' rice' choice.

JYOTI Manjhi's simple looks belie the willpower that helped her transform her hitherto barren village in Bihar's Gaya district into a veritable rice bowl. But don't judge Manjhi by her simplicity.

The 45-year-old is one of Bihar's best hopes of ushering in a 'green revolution' in the state -- a fact that even chief minister Nitish Kumar has acknowledged.

Manjhi, 45, is a Janata Dal (United) MLA from the Barachatti (reserved) constituency of the Gaya district. And she has won her voters' hearts by managing to cultivate paddy on barren land using a new technique.

Manjhi adopted the system of rice intensification (SRI), which significantly increases productivity despite using less water, to grow rice on her patch of land.

And though her fellow farmers were initially apprehensive of the SRI, they are now in awe of both Manjhi and the technique.

With this technique, the legislator has not only turned the arid land into a veritable rice bowl in Gaya's Fatehpur block but also inspired those from her community to take to farming.

Manjhi's success has now caught the fancy of chief minister Nitish Kumar. His government has now decided to implement the SRI technique on a large scale in order to herald Bihar's own "green revolution".

The Bihar government has launched the project, SRI Kranti, to convert the state into India's rice bowl.

"Jyoti has inspired thousands of farmers across Bihar with this technique of rice cultivation," Kumar said, while launching the scheme in Patna on Thursday.

Bihar hopes to implement the SRI technique in 3.5 lakh hectares of land for rice production in the first phase. Currently, Bihar is producing about 50 lakh tonnes of rice, which could be increased to 65 lakh tonnes with the new technique. This, the authorities hope, will herald a new green revolution.

Manjhi has her success with the SRI method to thank for her foray into politics. It was Kumar who had brought Manjhi into politics. He came to know about what she had achieved in her village and he was so impressed by it that he offered her a party ticket to contest last year's assembly election.

The MLA said she had to swim against the tide as she set out to make SRI a success in her village.

Manjhi said her fellow villagers initially mocked her when she set out for paddy transplantation under the SRI technique after getting training from an NGO called Pradan in 2008.

" They ridiculed my efforts when I started planting paddy saplings," she said. " But after seeing the results within 15 days, 200 families came forward to follow the SRI technique." Manjhi and her husband, Baleshwar Prasad, started cultivation on about four acres of Bhoodan land that they had received from the state government many years ago.

Prasad said it was in 2008 that they learnt about the SRI. He said the method enhanced yields considerably and required less water.

" In the conventional method of rice cultivation, a farmer gets up to a maximum 60 kg of paddy from one kattha ( 720 sq feet) of land," he said. " But the SRI method has helped us get a yield of 210 kg in the same area." Moreover, only two kg of seedlings are required for sowing in one acre of land while conventional farming requires 20 to 30 kg for the same area.

From being the daughter of landless bonded labourers to becoming a legislator, Manjhi has come a long way. But she claims she won't rest until she realises her dream of ushering in a rice revolution in the state.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Jan 31, 2011
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