Pushing for a consensus to resolve the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) dispute with Haryana, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday called for coordination by the states with the Centre to find a feasible solution for the optimal utilisation of river waters.
Addressing the 28th meeting of the Northern Zonal Council (NZC) here, the chief minister also sought the Centre’s help in supplementing Punjab’s efforts to check cross-border smuggling of drugs, which his government is committed to eliminating.
Referring to the border status of Punjab, Amarinder reiterated his demand for Central government concessions on the lines of fiscal and industrial concessions being given to Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to compensate the state for the financial and economic loss already suffered by it. This, he said, was necessary to provide a level playing field to Punjab.
Though he did not make a direct reference to SYL, Amarinder reiterated his demand for re-assessment and re-determination of the availability of surface waters in the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. Pointing out that Punjab was suffering an ecological crisis because of depletion of groundwater, he urged the Centre to take expert advice on how to make reliable estimates of future flows in these rivers.
Referring to the drug menace in Punjab, the chief minister said since the border was manned by central security forces, Union home minister Rajnath Singh, who was presiding over the meeting, should order a strict vigil on the border to check cross-border smuggling of narcotics. Underlining the need to combat the drug problem in a systematic manner, he sought inter-state coordination and urged the neighbouring states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir to make efforts for the destruction of illegal cultivation of poppy and cannabis.
The chief minister took the opportunity to express concern at the dilution, by the Chandigarh Administration, of the 60:40 ratio decided by the Government of India, at the time of reorganisation of Punjab, in the matter of government posts in the departments of the Union Territory between Punjab and Haryana.
Reiterating the importance of the Shahpur Kandi dam project, the construction of which is stalled since 2014, Amarinder requested the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister to look into the matter and ratify the agreement for the resumption of construction.
Amarinder sought his Himachal Pradesh counterpart’s intervention to put an immediate stop to the discharge of effluents into the Sutlej by industries/towns in the hill state through rivulets. Pointing out that the Sutlej water is used for drinking in Punjab, Amarinder said his government has initiated a three-year river cleaning project that will ensure all waste water being discharged into Punjab rivers is treated.
Besides Union home minister Rajnath Singh, others who attended the meeting included Punjab governor and Chandigarh administrator VP Singh Badnore, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal, J&K deputy chief minister Nirmal Kumar Singh, Himachal health minister Thakur Kaul Singh and Rajasthan water resources minister Ram Pratap.