Punjab, Haryana fight over water sharing intensifies

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Chandigarh, March 14 (IANS) The political row between Punjab and Haryana on river water sharing intensified on Monday with the Punjab assembly “unanimously” passing a bill to return the land acquired for the SYL canal and the Haryana assembly, within hours, passing a “unanimous resolution” condemning the measure.

The Haryana assembly, objecting to the bill passed by the Punjab assembly to de-notify the land for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, described the move as “unilateral, unconstitutional and denying the authority of the Supreme Court, a step only to draw political mileage”.

The resolution requested the central government “to annul this illegal and unconstitutional action” (of Punjab).

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that he would speak to his Punjab counterpart Parkash Singh Badal to express his “displeasure” over the issue.

“This step is unconstitutional and an injury to the federal structure. I will speak to Mr Badal and will definitely convey my displeasure over this issue,” Khattar told media here on Monday.

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Badal had, in the Punjab assembly, introduced The Punjab Satluj Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill, 2016 to de-notify the land acquired for construction of the SYL Canal and return 3,928 acres free of cost to the original landowners.

The land was acquired nearly four decades ago.

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 MAF in surplus Ravi-Beas water, which has resulted in reduction in agriculture production.

“Instead of fulfilling its legal and constitutional obligation to provide Haryana its legitimate share of water, the Punjab government preferred to pass the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, which was a blow to the constitutional structure of the country and undoubtedly was an attempt of contempt of the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” said the resolution passed by the Haryana assembly.

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It noted that on Haryana’s request, the matter was referred by the central government, through the president to the Supreme Court for its opinion on controversial Punjab act.

“Further, in view of the seriousness of the issue this august house, unanimously passed resolutions in the years 2011 and 2014 severely condemning the unilateral and unconstitutional act of Punjab. It is on account of the concerted efforts of the present government that the Presidential Reference, pending for the last more than 11 years, has now come up for hearing before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India,” it added.

“This is a patently illegal act of Punjab and is in utter contempt of the Indian Constitution, federal structure of the country and the rule of law. This is a sinister move of Punjab government having dangerous potential to undermine the unity and integrity of this country,” the resolution warned.

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The Supreme Court had recently accepted a petition filed by the Haryana government for early hearing on the issue.

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 assembly polls which are to be held in February next year and political parties have taken a stand on the issue.

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, is entangled in a political and legal quagmire with both states unwilling to give up their respective stand on it and sharing of river waters.

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