FILE photo: Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi
A day after his controversial comment apparently supporting the Maoist practice of levy from infrastructure contractors, Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi said he had been "misquoted". But his clarification today was on the same lines.
Maoist demand for levy - an extortion racket of sorts, which they claim is "protection money - is rampant in Bihar. On Sunday, the Chief Minister had said there was "nothing wrong" with the practice. (Read: Manjhi Ducks Show, Bouncers on Nitish Kumar
Recalling a conversation with Maoists, he had said if contractors and businessmen could mint money by wrong means, Maoists were not wrong in demanding a levy from them.
Today, at the Janta Darbar - a once-a-week programme to meet the people at his Patna home -- Mr Manjhi issued clarifications regarding his comment.
The meeting with the Maoist leaders was not recent, he said. It took place two years ago. During the conversation, when he asked three Maoists why they demanded levy, they replied that the contractors were "looting the public exchequer".
He did not find any fault with that reasoning, Mr Manjhi added. "The contractors, in connivance with officials, always inflate the amount of any project so what's wrong if Maoists are asking for a cut?" he said.
In this context, he also spoke about how Maoist-hit areas have a large population of backward castes and not enough could be done for them. That provoked an upper caste youth present at the meeting, Amitesh, who threw a shoe at the chief minister.
Though the shoe failed to find its mark, the youth was immediately caught by the police. While being dragged away, he accused politicians of indulging in casteism, said Senior Superintendent of Police Jitendra Rana.
Mr Manjhi, whose statements have landed his party, the Janata Dal (United) in an embarrassing position on numerous occasions, once claimed he was too old to reform himself. (Read: Too Late to Reform Myself, Says Manjhi