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Kantibhai Mistry: Gujarat's 'determined' grassroots-level environmental, social activist

Kantibhai Mistry (middle) with Geetaben and Rohit Prajapati
By Rohit Prajapati*
Kantibhai Mistry left this world on Friday, February 28, 2020. He hailed from an ordinary working class family and was principally and passionately associated with numerous fields such as workers movement, Jyoti Karmchari Mandal, Vadodara Kamdar Union.
Not being restricted to these, he was also associated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Radical Socialist, movement against the pollution of Sabarmati River, movement against Vishwamitri Riverfront Development Project, communal harmony and so on.
He not only played a crucial supporting role in all these struggles, but also stood strong as a committed and unpretentious activist against all adversaries and adversities. Amongst all of us, he was a 70-year-old young activist. He has also made significant contribution in terms of supporting the works of Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan), a feminist group.
Kantibhai and Geetaben (life partner), together, were also part of many movements like Apna Dhaba, an admirable experiment for the promotion of food made from organic products, where this couple jointly played the crucial role as the main advocates and gained much popularity. It is important to acknowledge their revolutionary efforts for Apna Dhaba enterprise, which gained much acclaim in newspapers.
A trade union activist, Kantibhai was actively involved with the issue of workers' health while constantly being there at the Employees State Insurance (ESI) hospital of Vadodara for help, assistance and support to the ordinary workers. He was popular among the staff, doctors, and workers of the ESI main hospital, Gotri, Vadodara.
He was not only actively involved with labour courts, but also with environmental issues in the Supreme Court, the Gujarat High Court, and the National Green Tribunal. He especially remained present, silently and rock solid, on almost all the important court dates of cases against pollution, Mithivirdi Nuclear Power Plant, Statue of Unity, Garudeshwar Weir and Vishwamitri Riverfront Development Project.
His selfless commitment for critical causes was so extensive that the couple, Kantibhai- Geetaben, alone went to Pune and stayed there for two days in order to file the case against Mithivirdi Nuclear Power Plant in National Green Tribunal after clearing the queries raised at the National Green Tribunal office.
The staff of that office knew him more than they knew us. He remained actively involved in works ranging from public contact in Mithivirdi movement to conferences, meetings, and rallies while taking care of the important responsibilities like filing a petition in National Green Tribunal and maintaining records with the highest possible precision. His alertness and untiring efforts towards work gave inspiration to new activists in movements.
Kantibhai has set a tall example of values, foresight, and sincerity, has proven that educational qualifications, class are irrelevant when the heart is at the right place
We at the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti used to consult him about the administrative process of filing a case in the National Green Tribunal. In not only Vadodara, but journalists also from other cities knew him through his work. We, in routine ongoing activities, acutely felt his absence ever since he became a victim of cancer. He always used to tell us that “just wait for some days and I will once again become active”.
He was such an ardent activist who played the role of strong-willed person in various important movements as a trade union activist. He had such deep bonds with the village people of Mithivirdi-Jasapara villages that it seemed as if a hotline was established between them over the phone.
All the people who know us from within and outside the country know Kantibhai closely as a grassroots activist, and more importantly as person with great inner strength and will to contribute in various ways for different critical causes.
Kantibhai has set a tall example of values, sensitivity, foresight, and sincerity; he has proven that educational qualifications and class are all irrelevant when the heart is in the right place, working towards significant causes.
Not only the workers or the affected people of the so called Development Projects but Narmada, Mahisagar, Vishwamitri, Sabarmati, Damanganga, etc. rivers are also remembering him with a Revolutionary Salute.
___
*Senior activist, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vadodara

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