After Punjab, Rajasthan too has lodged protest with the Centre against Haryana’s decision to give extension of service to SK Sharma, member (irrigation), who holds additional charge of Bhakra Beas Management Board chairperson. The BBMB manages the release of water in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan as it controls Bhakra, Pong and other dams.
Both Punjab and Rajasthan are worried about the drop in the level of Bhakra and Pong dams. Against 1,602 feet last year, the Bhakra reservoir has 1556-foot water at present. Its full capacity is 1,680 feet. Water released by the BBMB is the main source of irrigation in Punjab, while it is the lifeline of Rajasthan.
Rajasthan is irked over Haryana extending its ‘indirect’ control over the BBMB and wants the Centre to appoint a regular chairperson. Sharma, who was to retire on January 31, was given extension till January 31, 2018, or the appointment of BBMB chairperson, whichever is earlier. The orders came on the day of his scheduled superannuation. Sharma holds the additional charge since September 24, 2015.
“There is an urgent need to appoint a regular chairman of the BBMB for its smooth functioning. Punjab has repeatedly taken up the issue with the Union power ministry, and now even Rajasthan has objected to extension given to the Haryana official. Punjab will again raise the issue in the technical committee meeting that is likely to take place in the first week of March,” said Punjab irrigation secretary Kahan Singh Pannu.
The latest sticking point in this controversy is the postponement of the BBMB technical committee (TC) meeting, which was to be held in Chandigarh on February 27. The meeting is held at the end of every month to decide the water releasing and power generation quantum for the coming month. The irrigation and power representatives from the partner states take the decision keeping in mind water availability in reservoirs. The meeting also decides upon coordinated release of Ravi water from Ranjit Sagar Dam in Punjab along with Beas and Sutlej waters from Pong and Bhakra.
“In the past one decade, the TC meeting has never been delayed or postponed. In fact, emergency meetings can also be held during the month to take up urgent matters. As the water released by the BBMB is of utmost importance to both Rajasthan and Punjab, decisions regarding utilisation of water resources have to be taken in a coordinated and optimum way, for which the TC is the only forum,” said a Punjab power engineer, working with the BBMB for long, on the condition of anonymity.
The All India Power Engineers Federation has also taken up the issue of postponement of the TC meeting with the Union power ministry. AIPEF chief patron Padamjit Singh, who has written the letter to the ministry, has demanded probe into the “wrong orders” issued by the Haryana government.
The federation also plans to approach court for regular appointment on the post of BBMB chairman.