Water politics: SYL canal could pose national threat, warns Punjab CM

The SYL canal water dispute, which is almost five decades old, has seen some developments. Punjab and Haryana have made a recent attempt to come to a suitable conclusion regarding the ongoing water dispute.

Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh said Punjab will burn and the state’s water-sharing dispute with Haryana will transform into a national security problem if the Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal is completed, warned the Centre. The virtual meeting, held on Tuesday, was also attended by Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The Punjab CM described the meeting as “positive and cordial.”

Last month, the apex court had directed the two chief ministers to discuss the completion of the SYL canal.

The developments

“You have to look at the issue from the national security perspective. If you decide to go ahead with SYL, Punjab will burn and it will become a national problem, with Haryana and Rajasthan also suffering the impact,” Capt Singh added.

At the recent virtual meeting, Capt Singh demanded a tribunal to make a fresh time-bound assessment of the water availability. He demands a complete share of water for Punjab from the total available water resource including from River Yamuna.

Indicating a national security risk, Capt Singh said that Punjab remained at risk from all quarters. He said that Pakistan was continuing with attempts to foment trouble and was trying to revive the separatist movement through the banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) organisation.

Haryana CM Khattar said, “We maintained our stance that the SYL should be constructed. The Supreme Court too has said that,” he told reporters after the meeting.

Several decades later, SYL dispute continues

Construction of the canal began in 1982. The water dispute, however, dates back to 1966 when the states of Punjab and Haryana came into existence. Haryana had demanded a large chunk of river water which Punjab refused to provide, contending it didn’t have surplus water.

In 1975, the Indira Gandhi government reinforced an executive order dividing the waters between Punjab and Haryana. The canal was commissioned to facilitate sharing.

“The Punjab Act cannot be said to be in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and by virtue of the said Act, Punjab cannot nullify the judgment and decree referred to herein above and terminate the December 1981 agreement,” the Supreme Court had said.

“Why would I not agree to give water if we had it,”

Punjab cm: capt. amarinder singh

Transfer of Proprietary Rights Bill, 2016

In 2016, the PUNJAB Assembly unanimously passed the contentious Punjab Satluj Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill, 2016. The bill proposes to re-vest property rights to the owners of nearly 3,928 acres of land acquired to construct the SYL canal. Source: The Indian Express

It was moved by then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. Badal addressed the concerns of the farmers by stating that no money should be recovered from the farmers upon returning the land acquired for SYL. The bill that was tabled after the question hour triggered a war of credit between the legislators of treasury and Opposition benches.

Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Charanjit Singh Channi said, “Punjab is facing a water crisis already. We cannot afford to give away a drop of water as our underground table would fall further. About 3,928 acres of land are under SYL. It should be given back to the farmers and they should not be asked to return the money.”

The CLP leader, recalling the Termination of Punjab’s Termination of River Waters Act, 2004, reminded the House that it was former CM Capt Amarinder Singh who had brought that bill while caring little about his chair. “Even today it is the Opposition that is prompting the government to bring in the bill,” said Channi.

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