Punjab hardens stand on SYL; to bring bill to de-acquire land for canal

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Chandigarh, March 10 (IANS) Hardening its stand on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue, the Punjab government on Thursday said it will bring in a legislation to de-acquire the land acquired from farmers and give it back to them to ensure the state does not have to share more water with other states.

The state government and leading political parties made it clear that Punjab will block any move by the central government to force the state to share more water with other states, especially Haryana.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said a Bill would be introduced in the current budget session of the state assembly for de-acquisition of land acquired for the canal and handing it back to farmers after nearly four decades.

“We will not allow a drop of water to flow out of Punjab. I will protect state’s natural resources and uphold its riparian right till the last drop of water is left in my body,” Badal told the assembly.

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Badal moved a resolution in the assembly on Thursday which said that “Punjab will not accept any unjust decision on SYL and river waters”.

Stating that “Punjab has not a single drop of water to spare”, the resolution said that “violation of Riparian principle is unconstitutional and therefore unacceptable”.

The resolution said that Punjab had always been discriminated against by the central government on various issues, especially water sharing.

Describing the situation as “extremely grave and dangerous”, Badal made it clear that “Punjab is not to tolerate nor allow any unjust decision on SYL and river waters to be forcibly imposed on Punjab”.

All Congress legislators present in the assembly were earlier suspended from the assembly for one day as they wanted more points in the resolution moved by the chief minister and protested in the well of the house.

The Supreme Court had accepted a petition filed by the Haryana government for early hearing on the issue of the SYL canal, on which a presidential reference was pending.

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Both Punjab and Haryana have been locked in a bitter war of words over sharing of river waters. The apex court is hearing the matter when Punjab is less than a year away from from assembly polls which are to be held in February next year and political parties have taken a stand on the issue.

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

The presidential 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 SYL Canal, which 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 states unwilling to give up their respective stand on the controversial canal issue and sharing of river waters.

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The canal that was to link two major rivers in Punjab and Haryana is awaiting a presidential reference for the past nearly 12 years to decide its fate.

The foundation stone of the SYL 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 SYL construction to get the project stalled.

Several kilometres of the canal were made in Punjab and Haryana but the project never got completed.

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