Premjibhai Patel, fondly known as Premji Bapa who has gained fame for planting nearly 10 million trees and building 1,700 check dams in arid Saurashtra, has kept a grave ready for himself in his four-acre farm in Upleta. Patel has asked his family members that when he dies, he should be quietly buried in the pit and not a single log of wood be used for his final rites.
“I have also told my family that there should be no memorial stone on the grave. The pit should be filled up and used for farming again as usual. Crops should be grown on this grave and it should be treated just like part of the field,” he said. “I can’t see the trees which I planted being chopped for my death. No wood should be used in my agni sanskar,” he added. Patel, a successful businessman in Mumbai, returned to his native in 1967 only to embark on a mission to turn Saurashtra green. He founded a non-governmental organization (NGO) VPST,, which initiated a number of water harvesting and tree plantation projects in the Rajkot district.
“I was told that once upon a time there was forest cover from Gir to Dwarka. I was shocked to hear that trees were chopped for fuel,” he said. Patel was awarded the National Water Award-2008 by the Union ministry for water resources for watershed projects with effective community participation.
He planted a million gando baval trees which inspired former Indian president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam to meet him during his visit to Gujarat in 2010.