A five-minute walk from his ancestral home, a grave has been readied in the wooded graveyard. On Wednesday, an ambulance from HMP Foundation in Piraman left for Vadodara airport to bring back the body of veteran Congress leader Ahmed Patel, which arrived by a chartered flight from Delhi.
Patel had wished to be buried beside his parents, Halimabibi and Mohammedbhai Patel.
Classmates at the Gujarati-medium section of Mission School in the village of around 3,000 people, Abbas Mullah, 71, remembers Patel as a “shy student”, who grew up to be a man of the people – for the village, “their man in Delhi”. He would meet Mullah whenever he visited Piraman, chat with villagers late into the night, and sort out their issues, Mullah recalls.
Whats sets Piraman apart is its cement concrete internal roads and a helipad on the outskirts. It has two water distillation plants, set up with Patel’s efforts. All open haren public spaces have gardens “so that people would not throw garbage”, a villager says, crediting Patel for the plan.
For dealing with health emergencies, Patel had started a medical OPD centre run by a trust named HMP Foundation – named after his mother. The OPD centre is on the main street leading to his ancestral house.
All houses are concrete and the entire village is covered by CCTV camera. Most of its residents have settled in the US, the UK, Canada and South Africa, says former deputy sarpanch Salim Patel.
“He (Patel) was shy student; I was notorious. We sat together in classroom,” Mullah says. “Later he shifted to another school in (adjacent) Ankleshwar town and I quit studies due to financial problems. The reason why he is loved by millions of people is for his service towards all sections; for helping them resolve their issues. He never expected anything from anybody for work (he) got done.”
During those visits, Mullah says, Patel met villagers at his home at night – they came up to him with issues such as children’s admission, jobs and medical treatment and financial problems.
Deputy Sarpanch of Piraman village Imran Patel says, “We have made all necessary arrangements for the burial (tomorrow)…. The body of our leader Ahmed Patel will reach our village on Thursday and will be taken directly to the graveyard. People have started praying at their homes and in mosques in Piraman village.”
Wasim Shaikh, administrator of HMP Health Centre, says, “The health centre was started in 2011, thanks to the efforts of Ahmedbhai. Medicines, laboratory tests and medical treatment is free of cost for patients from Piraman and neighbouring villages. Two MBBS doctors are posted at the centre…. Close to a hundred patients come here for treatment every day.”
Apart from this, basic computer course and coaching for professional courses are also organised for the youth for free, he adds.
At Vadodara airport, Congress Seva Dal members stood in attendance. Seva Dal is among Congress wings that was close to Patel’s heart – if in Gujarat, he used to take part in the symbolic Dandi march the Seva Dal led in commemoration of the original march led by Mahatma Gandhi.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is expected to attend the burial here on Thursday.