Haryana BJP lawmakers meet Punjab Governor over SYL row

Chandigarh, Nov 16 (IANS) Amid an escalating water row between Punjab and Haryana, BJP legislators from Haryana on Wednesday met Punjab Governor V.P. Singh Badnore to seek blocking of a move by the Punjab government to de-notify land acquired nearly four decades ago for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.

The Punjab cabinet on Tuesday de-notified nearly 5,000 acres of land acquired for construction of the SYL canal nearly four decades ago.

Led by Haryana BJP President Subhash Barala, the Haryana BJP legislators demanded that the governor should not give his assent to the move by the Punjab government to de-notify the land.

They pointed out that the Punjab government’s move was in contempt of the Supreme Court verdict in the matter.

Haryana claims to be a water deficit state and has stated that it has been deprived of more than half of its legitimate share of 3.50 million acre feet (MAF) of surplus Ravi-Beas water, which has led to reduction in agriculture production.

The Supreme Court had earlier accepted its petition for early hearing on the issue of the SYL canal, on which the Presidential Reference is pending for the past 11 years. The Supreme Court verdict has given a clear opinion to the President in favour of Haryana.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has categorically said that his government will not accept the recent Supreme Court verdict which said termination of water agreements done unilaterally by Punjab in 2004 through a bill passed by the state assembly was illegal.

“The Punjab Council of Ministers today (Tuesday) decided in public interest that the land acquired for SYL Canal Project, which is presently vested in the Punjab government, free from all encumbrances, stands de-notified with immediate effect and shall forthwith vest in the original land owners or their lineal descendants/legal representatives, free of cost,” said the decision of the cabinet, taken at a meeting here.

Both states are in the midst of a political and legal war over water sharing between Punjab and Haryana through the SYL canal, which has remained at the centre of controversy for four decades without a drop of water actually flowing in the canal.

In March this year, the Punjab assembly had “unanimously” passed a bill to return the land acquired for construction of the SYL canal.

Within hours, the Haryana assembly, passed a “unanimous resolution” condemning the passage of the Bill by the Punjab Assembly. It had described the move as “unilateral, unconstitutional and denying the authority of the Supreme Court.”

The Congress government in Punjab had, in 2004, scrapped the water sharing agreements with neighbouring states and refused to give any water to other states, especially Haryana.

The presidential reference was sought after this move by Punjab which nullified all agreements on water sharing. The Punjab assembly, in 2004, passed the controversial “Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Bill” on water sharing with other states.

The SYL Canal, that was to link two major rivers (Sutlej and Yamuna) in Punjab and Haryana, was planned and major portions of it were even completed in the 1990s at a cost of over Rs 750 crore at that time. It is entangled in a political and legal quagmire with Punjab and Haryana unwilling to give up their respective stands.