With Punjab elections less than a year away and the state facing an unprecedented wave of anti-incumbency and an undercurrent of anger against the ruling alliance, the Punjab Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill, 2016 has come as a huge opportunity to regain lost ground. The masterstroke by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has not only unnerved the opposition parties in Punjab but has also caused heartburn in neighbouring Haryana, with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar opposing the 14 March 2016 Bill to denotify the 121-km-long SYL tooth and nail.
Notwithstanding the Supreme Court directions of a status quo on SYL, one can see excavator machines filling and dismantling the SYL that had been constructed to ferry water to Haryana from Punjab. Farmers with tacit support from authorities have already filled a major portion of SYL in Punjab. The Bill gives back land to the farmers free of cost which had been acquired for the SYL decades back. As a political move, the Bill aims at changing the ongoing discourse in Punjab and taking the winds out of Opposition parties’ sails. There IS already talk that Badal might announce an early poll.
The masterstroke seems to have come at a wrong time for Capt Amarinder Singh, president of the Punjab Congress and former chief minister who was touted as the saviour of Punjab waters. After all, it was he who had enacted the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act 2004 when Congress ruled the State. The move had put a full stop on the apex court’s intervention in matters related to completion of SYL.
Insiders at a meeting of Punjab Congress Manifesto Committee held on March 3, 1016 suggest that ironically it was Capt Amarinder Singh who had mooted this idea of filling up the canal by farmers.
However, the plan was not executed immediately and then was hijacked by Parkash Singh Badal, who introduced a Bill after the Question Hour in Punjab Assembly. The Bill offers to return 3,928 acres of land to the original landowners from whom land had been acquired without asking them to return the compensation received earlier. The Bill was passed unanimously in the House.
“Punjab does not have a single drop of water to spare from its rivers and we will ensure that there is no compromise on the inalienable rights of the state under the riparian principles. We believe that no price is too high to safeguard every drop of Punjab waters.”
Parkash Singh Badal, CM Punjab, patron of Shiromani Akali Dal
I would make any sacrifice to save Punjab water. The State is fully prepared for a sustained democratic and peaceful fight for justice over the critical state issues having a bearing on future generations.
Sukhbir Singh Badal, Deputy CM and President SAD
Amarinder Singh should tell the people whether he would ask for Kumari Selja’s resignation or resign
himself for failing to convince the Congress high command about the merit of Punjab’s case on the river waters sharing issue with Haryana.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union Food Processing Minister
Punjab CM should take strict action against officials who allowed filling of SYL canal. Drawing out of any money from the Consolidated Fund of Punjab for payment to Haryana is a gross financial irregularity. I have, therefore, returned the cheque hoping that good sense will prevail and the people of Haryana will be given their due share in the Ravi-Beas waters through SYL canal.
Manohar Lal Khattar , CM Haryana