Even though the recent remark of the Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and other BJP leaders that the farmers protesting against farm laws, should also demand the construction of Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, has evoked flak from the Opposition, it has garnered farmers’ support, especially in southern parts of the state.
Hundreds of farmers from Punjab and Haryana are protesting at Haryana-Delhi borders for about a month demanding repeal of the recently passed three agriculture laws. They fear these laws would do away with the safety net of minimum support price (MSP) and ‘mandi’ system and would also give total control to corporate houses.
A few days after state agriculture minister J P Dalal whipped up the issue, Khattar made this remark at a rally recently held in Mahendergarh. He said since the water table in many parts of the state had gone down the farmers protesting against the farm laws, should to also demand construction of SYL canal. The canal on completion would benefit several districts of south Haryana especially Mahendergarh, Rewari, Bhiwani and Meat where the water shortage is more acute.
The statement was also being seen as a shrewd move of Khattar to earn brownie points over his Punjab counterpart as he went on to bemoan how the Punjab chief minister had failed to implement the supreme court’s direction to hold talks with him solve the SYL canal issue. Besides Khattar, state agriculture minister J P Dalal, had also earlier appealed to farmers from Haryana to include the completion of the SYL canal in their demands.
The statements yielded instant flak from the opposition, besides several Khaps (villages’ bodies), which have been supporting farmers’ protest.
Former Haryana chief minister and who is also Congress legislature party (CLP) leader in the state assembly, Bhupinder Singh Hooda was quick to flay the BJP leaders for their remarks. Hooda, who is also leader of opposition termed it to be an attempt of BJP to weaken the farmers’ movement and told media that it was an attempt to divide farmers.
On the issue of the ruling of the supreme court on SYL canal issue, he said that the same had already been decided by the apex court in favour of Haryana, hence no point of raking it up at this stage.
The Indian National Lok Dal leader Abhay Chautala also said that the BJP government always created differences in the unity of the people. After the decision of the apex court in favour of Haryana in 2016, people of all parties led by the chief minister met the President and submitted a memorandum for the construction of SYL canal but the prime minister has not even given time to meet them to this day, he added.
Khaps Back Stir
Meanwhile, most of the Khaps across the state which have been backing the farmers’ stir by joining them at the Delhi borders with various food items including milk and other logistical support, pooh-pooh the BJP leaders’ remarks to include SYL canal issue in the current stir of the farmers.
There are about 90 Khaps in the state some of the Khaps have even announced to socially boycott some of the BJP and its ally Jannayak Janta Party (JJP). The JJP is a splinter outfit of the INLD.
In the House of 90 members, there are 40 belong to BJP, 10 from JJP while Congress has 31 and one each are from INLD and Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP). There are seven independent MLAs.
Tulsidas Grewal, president of Meham Chaubisi Khap having sway in at least five assembly seats in Rohtak, Jind, Hisar and Bhiwani districts and which is one of the most powerful Khaps in the state, maintains all the Khaps vehemently support the farmers stir.
“All the Khaps have been backing the stir and supplying food items, fruit, milk and other items such as wood for fire at the Delhi borders where a large number of farmers from Punjab have been camping’’, he says. He, however, outrightly condemn the leaders asking the farmers to include SYL canal issue at this peak of the farmers stir.
“The farmers know that all it is politics over the issue which has blocked the project so far and now again it is an attempt to weaken the stir’’, he adds.
Ashok Malik, national general secretary of the Gathawala Khap and Randhir Saroha, leader of Saroha Khap, air similar views. Malik even goes on to say that it is an attempt of some leaders to mislead farmers as the farmers know that construction of SYL canal is not possible in near future.
“Some of the BJP are even trying to weaken the farmers’ movement by not allowing farmers associated with them in some areas to participate in this stir. Hence, an attempt to divide farmers’’, he says.
Saroha says that since farmers from Haryana are joining their counterparts from Punjab, SYL canal has been a commonly discussed issue among them during this protest at Delhi borders. “The farmers of Punjab are in favour of sharing water with Haryana farmers after the same is properly regulated in Punjab’’, Saroha says and adds that likewise, they are also of the view that the three farm laws repeal should be the focus during the ongoing protest.
Support in Southern Hry
The issue of SYL canal construction, however, has been lapped up in southern parts of the state. Several speakers at Khattar’s rally spoke in favour of taking up the issue with centre.
Union minister of state Rao Inderjit Singh even asked Khattar and Haryana BJP president O P Dhankar to also hold more such rallies in other parts of the state where farmers are protesting against farm laws. State agriculture minister J P Dalal and former education minister Ram Bilas Sharma were also present on the occasion, besides several senior party leaders.
Former MLA and Congress leader from Ateli (district Mahendergarh), Naresh Yadav, who is president of Haryana Yuva Kisan Sangharsh Samiti openly favours including the SYL canal issue by the farmers now. “All the leaders from Ahirwal region have been demanding and struggling for SYL canal for over two generations and I had also taken out marches gone to jail for the same’’, he says and adds it is time the farmers including the issue while taking up other demands with the Centre now. Meanwhile, more rallies on the issue were being planned by the government.
However, the sitting Congress MLA from Rewari, Chiranjeev Rao held though the SYL canal issue was very important for the people of south Haryana, it was the not the time to digress from the ongoing farmers’ protest against farm laws.