A gathering of farmers will be held in Gujarat's Junagadh district Wednesday for various demands including a farm loan waiver and quota for the Patidar community on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who has given a call for the programme, said it will be a true tribute to Sardar Patel. In a video posted on his Facebook page on the eve of the unveiling of the 'Statue of Unity' by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Hardik claimed the Sardar never wanted such a monument for himself.
The prime minister is scheduled to dedicate to the nation the 182-metre tall monument, touted as the world's tallest statue, which is set up near the Sardar Sarovar dam in Narmada district.
The imposing monument is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty and is built on an islet, Sadhu Bet, near the dam. Hardik said former Union minister Yashwant Sinha and BJP MP from Bihar Shatrughan Sinha would join the 'Khedut Satyagraha' along with thousands of farmers, at Vanthali town in the western Gujarat district. "Both Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha have given their consent to attend the programme. We expect that over 40,000 farmers would converge at Vanthali tomorrow," said Hardik's close aide Nikhil Savani. In the video message, Hardik said the gathering has been called to "mount pressure on the government to accept various demands such as a farm loan waiver, 24-hour electricity for agriculture, more water for irrigation and reservation benefits for Patidar community under the OBC (Other Backward Classes) quota". Hardik has also demanded the immediate release of his close aide Alpesh Kathiria, who was arrested last month in a sedition case.
He said the "Khedut Satyagraha" is an attempt to pay true tributes to Sardar Patel on his birth anniversary. "We will hold discussions on various issues and try to chalk out a plan to resolve them. This programme is aimed at strengthening farmers, youths and the Patidar community," he said. The 25-year-old quota spearhead also claimed that Sardar Patel never wanted a statue for himself. "Sardar Patel never wanted a statue for himself. Instead, he always wished that farmers of this country never suffer. But today, farmers of Gujarat as well as the country are in dire straits," Hardik alleged. In August this year, Hardik had observed a 19-day fast at his residence in Ahmedabad demanding reservation for his community and a farm loan waiver. Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha had visited Hardik at his residence and also extended their support for the cause of farmers.
(With inputs from agencies.)