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10 years and counting: Presidential reference on Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal

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Chandigarh: A canal that was to link two major rivers in Punjab and Haryana is awaiting a presidential reference for the past over 10 years to decide its fate.

Photo credit: panoramio.com
Photo credit: panoramio.com

The Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal, that was planned and major portions of it were even completed in the 1990s at a cost of over Rs.750 crore at that time, is entangled in a political and legal quagmire with Punjab and Haryana unwilling to give up their respective stands on the controversial canal issue and sharing of river waters.

“This is one case in the country which has been lying pending for Presidential reference for the last 10 years. Counsel of Haryana have been asked to strongly plead the case in the court of law,” Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said.

The matter, which has been disputed by both the states before the union government and the Supreme Court over the years, had gone for Presidential reference in 2004.

The reference was sought after the Punjab assembly unilaterally passed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act 2004, categorically stating that it was nullifying all agreements on water sharing and that no more water would be given to Haryana.

“The Haryana government is making efforts for early hearing of the SYL Canal case, which has been lying pending for Presidential reference,” Khattar said.

Haryana’s worry is two-fold — one, the state is not getting its “legitimate” share of water from Punjab and, secondly, Delhi is demanding more water from Haryana.

“Delhi is demanding more water from Haryana due to increasing pressure of population from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana side. Haryana is ready to give its share of water to Delhi but other states should also contribute to meet the water requirement of Delhi from Sutlej, Beas and Ganga rivers,” Khattar said.

While Sutlej, Beas and Ravi rivers flow through Punjab after coming from the Himachal Pradesh side, Yamuna is the only major river flowing through Haryana after coming from the Uttarakhand side.

The foundation stone of the canal was laid in April 1982 by then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

At that time, terrorism was on the rise in Punjab and the issue became a sensitive one with leaders in Punjab raking up the water-sharing issue. Terrorists gunned down labourers and officials involved in the canal construction to get the project stalled.

Several kilometers of the canal were constructed in Punjab and Haryana but the project never got completed.

“Over the years, the canal has dilapidated. The concrete lining is in shambles and wild growth is there all over. In rainy season, the canal portions get water-logged and become a nuisance for people, especially farmers,” Balbir Singh, a retired engineer who was once associated with the SYL construction, told IANS.

In 2014, the Haryana assembly passed a unanimous resolution seeking the centre’s intervention to resolve the water sharing and SYL issues.

(IANS)

Next Story

Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s Exit Raises Questions Over AAP’s Future in Punjab

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself

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File photo: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.

The recent exit of politically outspoken leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fold in Punjab, at a time when general elections are around the corner, has raised a question mark over the party’s political future in the state.

It is not that Khaira, who was elected on the AAP ticket in the February 2017 assembly polls, was indispensable for the party in Punjab.

His exit, however, has shown that the AAP central leadership in Delhi continues to be unaffected by the self-created crisis in the Punjab unit that began in August 2016.

Khaira, who was suspended from the AAP along with another legislator, Kanwar Sandhu, in November 2018 for “anti-party activities”, last week floated a new party – Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP) – and has given enough indications of splitting the AAP down the middle.

Six AAP legislators in the state were present at the launch of the new party even though they did not share the stage with Khaira.

The AAP’s Punjab unit is in complete disarray – be it the leadership crisis, lack of political direction or agenda or the complete disillusionment of its cadre.

Max hospital
Arvind Kejriwal.

It’s not the first time that the AAP central leadership has committed political harakiri with the Punjab unit. It has become clear now that the AAP central leadership, instead of letting the Punjab unit take on the ruling Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance, ends up shooting itself in the foot every time.

Khaira was earlier unceremoniously removed as Leader of Opposition (LoP) by the AAP central leadership in July 2018. He openly rebelled against the party high command by dissolving the the AAP’s Punjab organisational structure and seeking complete autonomy for the state unit.

The AAP ousted its then Punjab unit chief, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, on flimsy bribery charges in August 2016, just months ahead of the assembly polls.

Chhotepur, who nurtured the party right from the day of its conception in Punjab, was shown the door after the emergence of a video clip in which an AAP worker was shown giving money to him. Even before this, Chhotepur was being sidelined in Punjab affairs with Delhi leaders like Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak calling all the shots.

As the Chhotepur episode unfolded, AAP leaders at the constituency and district level rebelled. Chhotepur, who accused the AAP central leadership of corruption in allotting tickets for various assembly seats, finally exited the party and formed a new political outfit – the Apna Punjab Party (APP) that has practically remained a non-starter.

The AAP appointed actor-comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi, with no political experience, as its state convener in place of Chhotepur. Ghuggi left the party on a sour note just months later.

Two AAP MPs from Punjab, Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa, were suspended in August 2015 for questioning the AAP’s leadership style.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Flickr

Gandhi, a cardiologist and known social worker, is the MP from Patiala constituency, while Khalsa, a former diplomat, represents Fatehgarh Sahib in the Lok Sabha. Gandhi was also unceremoniously removed from the post of leader of AAP in the Lok Sabha.

The AAP, which was completely rejected elsewhere in the country in the April-May 2014 general elections, won four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab – Sangrur, Patiala, Faridkot and Fatehgarh Sahib.

The AAP started the year 2016 on an upswing. Poll surveys and the party’s own political calculations gave it anything from 75 to over 100 seats in the 117-member assembly.

The party, however, finished second and managed to end up as the main opposition party with 20 legislators. One legislator, lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka, resigned from the assembly seat recently and even quit the AAP.

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With Khaira’s exit, his status as a legislator and the future of the six legislators who seem to be in his camp, will be seen in the coming months.

The party, which is the newest entrant on Punjab political scene – dominated largely by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress over the decades – is facing as much a challenge from its implosion.

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself. (IANS)