INLD adamant on SYL digging, Punjab parties warns it

Chandigarh, Feb 18 (IANS) With Haryana’s main opposition party, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) adamant on starting digging work of the controversial Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal on February 23, Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, and the Congress on Saturday warned them against any misadventure on this issue.

The Akali Dal urged political parties from neighboring Haryana “not to indulge in activities that provoke the people of the Punjab on the SYL issue”.

INLD secretary general Abhay Chautala has announced that thousands of INLD supporters will march from Ambala in Haryana on February 23 to the Shambhu barrier, on the boundary of Haryana and Punjab, and start digging of the SYL canal.

“The Akali Dal will never let the (SYL) project to be completed as it would deprive the farmers of the Punjab from their own waters. The issue of the SYL is dead, once and for all, as the Punjab Assembly has passed resolutions for restoration of the land acquired for the project,” Akali Dal secretary and Punjab Education Minister Daljit Singh Cheema said.

The Akali Dal leader said: “It is most unfortunate that the political parties of the Haryana, including the INLD, are resorting to provocative actions by issuing statements on digging of canal. Such statements will lead to tension in both the states and contribute towards inciting violence among the neighbours which is not in favour of anybody.”

Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh asked the government at the Centre and in Haryana to take all necessary steps to prevent any violation of Punjab’s borders by the INLD activists.

Terming the INLD actions as “provocative”, Amarinder sought action by the Haryana government against the INLD “to prevent the eruption of an inter-state crisis”.

“Chautala’s inflammatory statement has the potential of further escalating the tension already triggered by the ongoing Jat agitation in Haryana,” Amarinder pointed out.

The INLD, whose leadership was once close to the Akali Dal in Punjab, had snapped ties last year on the SYL issue.

Refusing to accept a ruling of the Supreme Court given in November last year which held the termination of water sharing agreements as “unconstitutional”, the Punjab government has pitted itself to confront the court verdict.

The Presidential reference was sought after the Punjab assembly, in 2004 during Congress rule, passed the controversial ‘Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Bill’ to end all water-sharing laws with other states.

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 was pending for the past 11 years. The apex court verdict has given a clear opinion to the President in favour of Haryana.

Both states are in the midst of a political and legal war over water sharing 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.

The SYL Canal, that was to link two major rivers (Sutlej and Yamuna) in Punjab and Haryana respectively, 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.