EVEN AS the police top brass and other government officials are bracing themselves up to deal with the possible water-related agitations in the state, Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has left for yet another foreign jaunt for nine days.
This is the Chief Minister's third trip abroad in less than a year, at least one of the earlier two being against the advice of the Central leadership at the height of the Kargil war.
Even this time, the Chief Minister has chosen to undertake the nine-day trip to the USA despite the Union Information Technology Ministry disallowing his proposed meeting with Microsoft chief Bill Gates.
Nevertheless, the Chief Minister and his team would visit places like San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York to plead for NRI investments in Gujarat which have slid back in the last few months.
During his visit to the Netherlands in February this year, the Chief Minister was reported to have impressed upon the Dutch leadership about the atmosphere in Gujarat being conducive for foreign investments. But, instead of investments flowing into the
State, the diplomats from the Royal Dutch as well as the Royal Norwegian Embassies in Delhi had visited the state to make discreet enquiries about the actual status of minorities and the human rights situation.
That the Chief Minister should leave for a foreign jaunt at a time the water crisis in large parts of the state is nearing a flash-point has raised many eye-brows. Nearly 50 lakh people in the Saurashtra region and about a lakh abandoned cows in cattle
camps are crying for water.
The police in many districts have already been asked to prepare contingency plans to deal with the situation.
So acute is the water crisis that some police officers have gone on record as saying that they would not open fire on the agitators demanding water.
Agitations for water this year had begun as early as Dec 14 when police firing on farmers demanding water in Jamnagar district had claimed three lives.
Initial signs of possible water riots in Saurashtra are visible as reports like people snatching the hosepipe at the Mayor's residence to fill their buckets and a housewife committing suicide have already come in.
Just a day before flying to the USA the Chief Minister inaugurated a Rs 36 crore pipeline project that would supply drinking water only to the municipal limits of Ahmedabad.