In a bid to retain its hold over the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), which controls the flow of water in irrigation channels of north Indian states, the Haryana government has given extension of service to SK Sharma, member (irrigation), who holds additional charge of BBMB chairperson, as the Centre has failed to appoint a regular chairperson.
Punjab has been staking its claim over the Bhakra project, and that has remained a sticking point with Haryana, which was carved out of the larger state of Punjab in 1966. The BBMB manages the release of water in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan as it controls Bhakra, Pong and other dams.
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. He has held additional charge as chairperson since September 24, 2015, after due from the Union power ministry. Had he retired, the chair would have come to the next seniormost member, who is from Punjab, said officials, who did not want to be named.
The timing is crucial as, in the paddy season, Punjab demands more water in its channels to irrigate fields.
Punjab officials are appalled how a state government has granted extension to someone who is officiating as chairperson, a post under the control of the Centre.
Delay and ‘interference’
In order to fill the chair, the Union power ministry had issued a circular on September 29 last year inviting applications by the following October 14. A large number of senior engineers from the central and state government services applied, and the interviews were conducted on November 22. However, the final selection is yet to be made.
This has miffed the Punjab-based irrigation and power engineers. “Haryana has clearly interfered in the already-delayed selection process of the BBMB chairperson by granting one-year extension to its official. In case of retirement of member (irrigation), the charge of the chairperson’s post has to come to the next seniormost engineer, who is from Punjab,” said a power engineer.
In a letter to the ministry, All India Power Engineers Federation chief patron Padamjit Singh has criticised the “interference” by Haryana on a matter which is “beyond its purview.” He said the state government has “committed a gross irregularity, more so since the approval of the Haryana governer has been taken on a matter which was beyond his competence”.
What’s the BBMB structure
The Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) was formed under the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, and has a chairperson and two whole-time members — one for power, who is from Punjab, and the other for irrigation, from Haryana. In 2015, the two posts were made only advisory in nature. All administrative and technical powers were centralised in the hands of the chairperson.
Apart from this, the Centre nominates two members, while the irrigation secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh are members too.
What it does
■ Administration, operation and maintenance of Bhakra-Nangal project, Beas project unit-1 (Beas Sutlej Link Project) and Beas Project Unit-2 (Pong Dam) in northern India
■ Regulation of supply of water from Sutlej, Ravi and Beas to states
■ Regulation and supply of power generated from the projects.