Chandigarh: The Haryana government on Friday objected to the Punjab government's move for de-acquisition of land taken to construct the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, which has been at the centre of a water-sharing row between Punjab and Haryana for decades.
Haryana Cheif Minister Manohar Lal Khattar
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal has taken exception to a statement by his Punjab counterpart Parkash Singh Badal that the land acquired for the SYL canal would be de-notified and given back to farmers from whom it was acquired nearly 40 years back.
Terming it "unfortunate", Khattar said Badal's statement, after the Supreme Court had begun hearing on the Presidential reference regarding the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act 2004, was "disappointing and driven by purely political considerations".
"I have great respect for Badal who is an experienced leader. Being the elder brother of Haryana, Punjab should protect the interests of the younger brother. One should refrain from commenting on anything which is sub judice," Khattar said in a statement.
Khattar said he was confident that Haryana would get every drop of its legitimate share of river waters.
"The SYL is the lifeline of Haryana farmers and the state government is committed to doing everything possible to make it carry Haryana's share of water at the earliest. An all-party meeting he had convened on March 12 would also take up the waters issue," he added.
Badal had declared on Thursday that the Punjab government would de-notify the land which had been acquired for the construction of the controversial SYL canal in Punjab.
The said land, measuring 5,376 acres, would be returned to its original owners, Badal said.
Badal had told the Punjab assembly on Thursday that not a single drop of water would be allowed to flow out of Punjab.
"In fact, an extremely critical and dangerous water crisis stares its population in the face. I would rather shed every drop of my blood than allow any drop of Punjab's river waters to flow out in violation of its rights," Badal said.
The Supreme Court had recently accepted a petition filed by the Haryana government for early hearing on the issue of the SYL canal, on which the Presidential Reference is pending for the past 12 years.
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.
The Congress government in Punjab had, in 2004, scrapped the water sharing agreements with neighbouring states and 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, is entangled in a political and legal quagmire. Punjab and Haryana are unwilling to give up their respective stand on the canal issue and sharing of river waters.
The canal was to link two major rivers (Sutlej and Yamuna) in Punjab and Haryana.
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 the SYL construction to get the project stalled.
Several kilometres of the canal were made in Punjab and Haryana but the project never got completed.