Punjab-Haryana Leaders Flogged SYL Issue to Score Brownie Points

The Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal has been the centre of Punjab-Haryana politics for over 4 decades

4 min read
Punjab-Haryana Leaders Flogged SYL Issue to Score Brownie Points

Even as several parts of the country face a drought and water shortages, the country’s leading foodgrain states Punjab and Haryana continue to be locked in a bitter water war over a canal.

At the centre of their latest political spat is the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal. The ground reality of all this political grandstanding is that not a drop of water has flowed through the disputed canal in the past nearly 40 years and chances are that it never will.


What is the SYL Canal Issue?

A part of Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@NCRTRIBUNE9)

The SYL Canal, that was to link two major rivers (Sutlej and Yamuna) in Punjab and Haryana, was planned and a major portion of it has been built in the 1990s at a cost of over Rs 750 crore at that time. But it now remains entangled in a political and legal quagmire with both states adamant on their stands and unprepared to accommodate the other to the detriment of people, particularly farmers, of both states.

Both states and their leaders have flogged the SYL issue in the past four decades to score their respective political brownie points. The leaders have even indulged in brinkmanship at the cost of vitiating the social atmosphere and creating a sense of distrust among people of the two states.

With assembly polls in Punjab just 10 months away, the SYL issue has been propped up by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal to help the party meet its political ends in view of the strong challenge being posed by the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the state’s political scene and the efforts of the Congress to politically revive itself.

Punjab Doesn’t Want to Share Water

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at Khadoor Sahib, Punjab. (Photo: IANS)

Punjab, the land of five rivers, is adamant that it will not share a single drop of water with Haryana or any other state. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Akali Dal are leading from the front on this emotive issue.

The contentious SYL issue has not embroiled Punjab and Haryana alone. The matter has knocked the doors of the union government and the Supreme Court. It has also rocked assemblies of both states.

The Punjab assembly, in 2004, passed the controversial Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Bill on water sharing with other states. The Punjab assembly, even when the issue is under Supreme Court observation, passed a resolution to allow de-notification of acquisition of land for the SYL canal which was done nearly four decades back.

This brought Punjab into direct confrontation with the Haryana government and the apex court.The Punjab government said that it will return 5,376 acres of land to the original owners.


Haryana’s Ground Water Over-exploited

Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar addressing the press after completing a year of government. (Photo: PTI)

Haryana assembly made a counter-resolution in March stating:

Haryana is a water deficit state and the availability of water is 61 percent less than the total requirement. Out of 126 blocks, 71 are overexploited for groundwater. The situation is so grim that in half of the state, canal water can be supplied after a gap of 32 days for only eight days, with the result that it is difficult to even fulfil the drinking water needs and ponds

The Haryana government argued that since the formation of Haryana in 1966, despite Government of India orders in 1976, Tripartite agreement between the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan in 1981, Rajiv-Longowal Accord in 1995 and two historic decisions of the Supreme Court of India in 2002 and 2004, Haryana has been deprived of more than half of its legitimate share of 3.50 MAF (million acre feet) in surplus Ravi Beas water, which has resulted in reduction in agriculture production to the tune of 800,000 tonnes of food grains every year, causing a perpetual annual loss of about Rs. 1,000 crore the resolution stated.

Badal in No Mood to Compromise

Prakash Singh Badal is not the least inclined to listen to Haryana’s arguments. If anything else, Badal recently seemed to harden his stand on the issue.

Successive union and state governments of the Congress party had systematically robbed Punjab of all its vital interests, most especially on the issue of river waters. Any compromise on river waters would amount to signing the death warrant of every Punjabi. This must be confronted, fought and defeated. Anything is precisely what we are totally committed to achieving.
Prakash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab

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