No water sharing; Punjab confronts SC verdict with assembly resolution (Roundup)

Chandigarh, Nov 16 (IANS) Refusing to accept the recent Supreme Court ruling on the SYL canal which held the termination of water sharing agreements as “unconstitutional”, the Punjab government took a defiant stance with an assembly resolution on Wednesday stating clearly that Punjab would not spare any water for Haryana.

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday dubbed the unanimous resolution adopted by the state assembly to say “no” to river water-sharing with other states as “historic” and said it had given the “final burial” to the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue.

Badal, who is also President of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, said the assembly’s directions on Wednesday, to the state government and its officers not to allow construction of the SYL canal and to recover money from other states for water supply, were final and binding.

“It is a historic decision. This has given the final burial to the SYL issue,” Badal told the media here after the resolution was adopted.

The assembly directed the Cabinet, government and its officers “neither to hand over any land of the state to any agency for construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal nor allow anyone to work on this project and give any sort of cooperation for this purpose in the larger public interest”.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who has already stated not to accept the Supreme Court ruling and vowed not to let a single drop of water go out of Punjab, moved the resolution.

The special one-day session of the Punjab assembly was convened on Wednesday to protest against the Supreme Court verdict on a Presidential reference that dubbed a 2004 law passed by the house to end a water-sharing agreement as “unconstitutional”.

The resolution also directed the Punjab government to demand payment from other states for the river water supplied to them over the past few decades. It asked the government to seek the Centre’s help to recover water dues from Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.

The Punjab government, on Tuesday, had ordered de-notification of nearly 5,000 acres of land acquired for the SYL canal nearly four decades ago.

The resolution was adopted in the absence of 42 Congress legislators who had resigned on November 11 from the 117-member house to protest against verdict.

Addressing the assembly, Badal said that Punjab did not have even a single drop of river water to spare and no water would be allowed to flow to Haryana.

Badal said: “The state government will do everything possible to stop water from flowing to Haryana. We will not implement the (Supreme) Court order at any cost; not a drop of water from Punjab will be given to anyone even if we have to go to jail.”

The assembly also directed the Punjab government and its departments and agencies not to hand over land to any agency and neither cooperate in the construction of the controversial Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.

Taking strong exception to the absence of Congress legislators, Badal blamed the opposition party and its leadership for “betraying Punjab and its people on territorial issues, including river waters”.

Amid the escalating water row, BJP legislators from Haryana on Wednesday met Punjab Governor V.P. Singh Badnore to seek blocking of the Punjab government’s move to de-notify the acquired land. Led by Haryana BJP President Subhash Barala, the BJP legislators urged the Governor not to give his assent to the move.

The BJP legislators said the Punjab government’s move was in contempt of the Supreme Court verdict.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has taken strong exception to the resolution passed by the Punjab assembly to charge cost of water supplied to non-riparian states (Haryana and Rajasthan). Khattar described the resolution as unconstitutional.

Haryana has a BJP government while in Punjab, the BJP is an alliance partner with the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal since 2007.

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 is pending for the past 11 years. The Supreme Court verdict has given a clear opinion to the President in favour of Haryana.

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.