Upping the ante, top leaders from Punjab and Haryana on Monday took their fight over the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal to President Pranab Mukherjee, strongly reiterating their respective stands in the three-decade-old dispute.
While an all-party deputation from Haryana led by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar appealed to the President to implement the decision of the Supreme Court in the SYL case at the earliest, a delegation of Punjab ministers, which was led by CM Parkash Singh Badal, asked him not to accept any advice against the Riparian principle for distribution of river water.
The high-powered delegations from the two states met the President in New Delhi following the recent verdict of the Supreme Court that said that the Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Act, 2004, was in violation of constitutional provisions.
The Punjab delegation, which submitted a memorandum to Mukherjee, urged him that nothing should be done to deprive the people of Punjab of their legitimate rights with regard to waters of rivers of the state in violation of the universally accepted Riparian Principle. Any advice or decision which violates the Riparian principle would run against the dictates of constitutional framework of the country, they said.
The delegation also informed him that Punjab had already filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging Section 78-79 of the Punjab Reorganization Act 1966 and seeking a decision on the river waters in accordance with the nationally and internationally accepted Riparian principle. “A highly-volatile situation has arisen in the state following the opinion of the Supreme Court upon the Presidential Reference on this issue. This has given rise to extreme public reaction and severe unrest and anger among the residents including the farmers,” it said.
The delegation said to the President that the state had no surplus water at present and digging of SYL canal without determining whether any water was available or not for passing through it was patently unjust. Besides Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Badal, the state deputation had 12 ministers.
Earlier, the all-party group from Haryana, which met the President first, pressed the state’s case for its share of river water, requesting him to ensure implementation of the SC verdict at the earliest. “Haryana should get its due share of water. The state is asking for its rightful share and not Punjab’s share. Both states had been allotted equal share of 3.5 million acre feet (MAF) water under a water sharing agreement, but Haryana was getting only 1.62 MAF. Since 1981, Punjab has been utilising 1.88MAF water that rightfully belongs to us,” Khattar told reporters after meeting the President.
He said that people of Haryana had complete faith in the Constitution, and believed that the state would get its rightful share of water so that maximum foodgrains could be produced and they could get adequate drinking water, he said. Besides five ministers, the state delegation comprised leaders of the BJP, Congress, INLD and the BSP. It included state BJP chief Subhash Barala, Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar, Congress Legislature Party leader Kiran Choudhry, former CM Bhupinder Hooda, Leader of Opposition Abhay Chautala and BSP MLA Tek Chand Sharma. They were with the President for 40 minutes.