Police detains Hardik Patel, Congress MLA over protest against river pollution

Rajkot: Patidar agitation spearhead Hardik Patel and his associate Lalit Vasoya were detained by the police on Saturday before they could follow up their threat to plunge into the Bhadar river in protest against river pollution from textile units.

Vasoya, a Congress legislator from Dhoraji-Upleta in Rajkot district, had threatened to take ‘jal samadhi’ in the river in Saurashtra region’s Rajkot district stating that textile dyeing and printing units in nearby Jetpur town were polluting the river with untreated effluents.

He said this affected the water in Bhadar 2 dam, which is a source of drinking water for more than 400 villages in the region.

“I know that threatening self-immolation or suicide is wrong, but I have been petitioning the state government for long, besides the pollution control board and even the Governor on the issue, but to no avail. It is a serious issue of the people. What do you want me to do?” Vasoya said.

The police detained Vasoya and Hardik Patel after they addressed a rally at the site and were proceeding towards the Bhadar 2 dam. They were later released.

“Several industrialists tried to bribe us not to press the issue. It is a serious issue; over five lakh people have been affected by polluted water. For instance, in a village Bhookhi, over 70 persons have contracted cancer. When will the government wake up,” Hardik Patel told reporters.

A public interest litigation seeking closure of all the dyeing and printing units in Jetpur is pending in the Gujarat High Court and notices have been issued to the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, the Rajkot District Collector, the State Government and Jetpur Dyeing and Printing Association. The PIL also seeks a CBI probe into involvement of erring officials.

The ruling BJP hit back at the agitators, stating that it was nothing but a “drama.” “If they have an issue, they must speak to the government. They are just interested in drama and people are laughing at them. From Nehru to Rahul Gandhi, it is a legacy of Congress to spread falsehood. The people have seen through this,” said state BJP President Jitu Vaghani.