The Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today declared that the Punjab government would de-notify the land which had been acquired for the construction of the controversial Satluj-Yamuna Canal in Punjab. The said land measuring 5376 acres would be returned to its original owners.
Making this momentous announcement on the floor of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha here this afternoon, the Chief Minister also declared that not a single drop of water would be allowed to flow out of Punjab as such a decision and action would be neither constitutionally nor legally tenable.
"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," said Badal.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and its ally the BJP were quick to hail the Chief Minister's announcement. "With a single stroke, Badal has struck down the long and dark legacy of the Congress governments against the people of Punjab.
The decision would go a long way in removing grave threats to the very survival of the people of Punjab. Every Punjabi would be walking taller from this afternoon as Badal's decision would safeguard his dignity and his self esteem," said the Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Meanwhile, Senior BJP leader Madan Mohan Mittal also hailed this historic decision, who was also present at the Press Conference and said that BJP being an alliance in the government fully endorsed this pro-farmer and pro-Punjab decision.
In his impassioned address to the Vidhan Sabha, the Chief declared that "under no circumstances would any decision to construct SYL in violation of the Riparian Principle be accepted.
Badal's declaration came as climax of a bitter and intense face off between the SAD and the opposition Congress in the Vidhan Sabha. The CM declared that he was prepared to walk the high road to sacrifice to safeguard the interests of the people of his state. "I would not hesitate to make any supreme sacrifice to protect every drop of water in order to safeguard the rights of Punjabis. He said his government would not agree to any decision in defiance of riparian principles.
Mr. Badal gave a detailed account of how the 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. He backed his arguments and claims with irrefutable records and documents from official files and from the media. He also placed on the table of house copies of relevant letters, communication and other documents.
Mr. Badal said that the issue of river waters does not concern or affect the interests of the farmers alone, in fact every Punjabi faces death and devastation in the event of Punjab’s river waters being constantly denied to it, regardless of whether he was a shopkeeper, trader, businessmen, Arthiya, student, sports person, house wife or from any other sphere, "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,” saidBadal.
Dwelling on the injustice done by Congress led Centre and State governments to Punjab, the Chief Minister gave a brief account of first betrayal in terms of interstate Ministerial meeting in 1955 which was presided by the then Union Water Resources Minister Gulzari Lal Nanda and was attended by the Irrigation Ministers of Rajasthan, PEPSU and J&K. The allocation of 15.85 MAF of Ravi, Beas surplus water was distributed amongst Punjab (5.9 MAF), PEPSU (1.3 MAF), J & K (0.65 MAF) and Rajasthan (8 MAF). Internationally accepted Riparian Principle was blatantly violated as Rajasthan neither was nor is a Riparian State. Rajasthan was given 8 MAF, which was more than the combined allocation of 3 Riparian States.
Punjab was meted out discrimination for second time in terms of Indus Water Treaty of 1960, under which distribution of six rivers between India and Pakistan was done. Jhelum, Chenab and Indus went to Pakistan while Sutlej, Ravi and Beas to India. Distribution was allotted to Pakistan with 136 MAF (80%) and Punjab (India) with 34 MAF (20%) under this treaty.
In the Reorganization Act of 1966, Badal lamented that the discrimination continued against Punjab unabatedly. After creation of Haryana, Government of India using Section 78 of the Reorganization Act, 1966 allocated 50% (3.5 MAF) water to Haryana from the share that Punjab (including PEPSU) was given in 1955. He said the use of Section 78 of the Reorganization Act by Government of India was unconstitutional as the only legal remedy for sharing of river waters lies in the Inter State River Water Dispute Act 1956. The Government of India blatantly bypassed the Act of 1956 which provides for the constitution of a Tribunal to adjudicate between two states in case of dispute on water issues. The decision on sharing of river waters was to be taken by Tribunal and not by Government of India.
Referring to the issue of SYL, Mr. Badal said that it was started in 1976 and first mention about its construction was made in 1981 agreement. But surprisingly much before that the Congress Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab had already decided on it. Badal mentioned that Rs. 1 crore was received by Punjab from Haryana on November 18, 1976. The then Chief Minister of Punjab Giani Zail Singh wrote a D.O. letter on November 26, 1976 to his Haryana counterpart Banarsi Dass Gupta seeking consent to carry out the works for construction of SYL Punjab Portion out of the Rs. 1 crore which was so kindly offered by Haryana. Subsequently, in January 1, 1977 the Punjab government under Giani Zail Singh Singh accorded the most important Administrative approval to construct SYL Punjab portion. The conspiracy to rob Punjab of its river waters was abundantly clear in this correspondence.
Throwing light on the issue of acceptance of Rs.1 crore in respect of government change in 1977, Badal referred the first payment to the tune of Rs.1 crore was received by the then Chief Minister Giani Zail Singh. Only Rs. 1 Crore out of Rs.242 Crore came as departmental routine during his tenure and nothing at the level of Chief Minister. Remaining Rs.241 Crore received by others.
Referring to the legal battle over the issue, the Chief Minister Haryana filed a suit in Supreme Court on April 30, 1979 for seeking a direction to construct SYL. Badal said his government filed a suit in Supreme Court challenging Section 78 of Reorganization Act in July 11, 1979. Constitutional experts were of the view that Punjab had a very strong case. Badal pointed out that only option for Haryana was that Punjab should withdraw this suit and the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi dismissed his government in Punjab during 1980. This was one of the reasons a suit was filed by Punjab.
With regard to agreement of 1981, Badal mentioned that this agreement was signed by Chief Minister of Punjab Giani Zail Singh, Haryana CM Bhajan Lal and Rajasthan CM Shiv Charan Mathur in presence of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on December 31, 1981 for the construction of SYL and withdrawal of suits by Punjab and Haryana. Subsequently, the suit was withdrawn by the then Punjab Chief Minister Darbara Singh on February 12, 1982. Digging of SYL was started by Indira Gandhi at Kapoori on April 8, 1982. Capt. Amrinder Singh gave advertisements with his photograph welcoming Indira Gandhi and the Shiromani Akali Dal launched a Morcha against digging of SYL and several Akalis were arrested and I led the first Jatha, added Badal.
Referring to the Punjab Settlement Rajiv-Longowal Accord, Badal said it was signed on July 24, 1985 to decide share of river waters of Punjab and construct SYL canal. The main emphasis of the accord was only on SYL. As per accord neither Army recruitment on merit was done and nor Chandigarh was transferred to Punjab as promised by GoI. None of any commission was set up to transfer Punjabi speaking areas to Punjab. SYL construction was started without determining whether Haryana was to get any water or not. It was a situation just putting a cart before the horse. Subsequently, Eradi Tribunal was constituted on April 2, 1986.
Mentioning about the suit filed by Haryana in the Supreme Court in 1996 for the completion of SYL, Badal said that the Supreme Court directed the Punjab government in its judgment on January 15, 2002 to either construct SYL within a year or hand over the work to GoI. Termination of Agreement Act 2004 was passed on July 12, 2004, which was supported by SAD in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. The Congress led GoI filed a Presidential Reference in Supreme Court within 10 days on July 22, 2004.
Badal said that his SAD-BJP alliance government filed a suit in Supreme Court challenging Section 78 of Reorganization Act, which was still pending. The Presidential Reference should be taken up only after the decision on the suit filed by me.
Badal referred to Punjab Termination of Agreements Act 2004, which Congressmen claimed as their major contribution. Badal said that all the Agreements which were terminated through this Act, were done by the Congress governments. Thus the Act was a mere admission of guilt by the Congress government headed by Amarinder Singh. This Termination Act terminated nothing but the agreements signed by the Congress governments alone themselves. He said the passage of this agreement was in fact an unintentional admission of guilt by the Congress government.
Badal dared the Congress leadership to explain whether any of the decisions, including the allocation of water to the non-riparian Rajasthan state by the GoI in contravention of National and International accepted Principles, to allocation of water to Haryana under Section 78 by the Government of India instead of a tribunal under Inter State Water Dispute Act, 1956, construction of SYL on the basis of written promise with Haryana government prior to any formal agreement or decision, starting the practice of taking funds from Haryana for the construction of this canal, subsequently, the agreement of 1981, which was signed by Chief Minister of Punjab Giani Zail Singh, Haryana CM Bhajan Lal and Rajasthan CM Shiv Charan Mathur in presence of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1981 and giving administrative approval for the construction of SYL prior to this agreement was ever taken by any government led by him. Are all these issues were true or not?
The Chief Minister clearly stated that Punjab didn’t have single drop of water to spare for any state rather it was passing through a severe water crisis. He said our opposition had been often accusing Akali Dal for raking up these issues to safeguard the interests of Punjab only while outside the government. He said in or out of government, their stand on pro-Punjab issues including SYL was consistent and would never be compromised. To corroborate the fact, Badal said he was the Chief Minister at a point of time when the Supreme Court gave direction on January 15, 2002 on the construction of SYL, he cited a news report from a section of press," Punjab does not have a drop of water to spare for any other State. We will not implement the Supreme Court Order at any cost even if I have to go to Jail for it. I would rather shed every drop of my blood than allow even a single drop of water to flow out of my state in defiance of the Riparian Principle." He said at that time we were not in opposition rather I was the Chief Minister.