Raising the stakes in its political fight with Haryana over sharing of river waters, the Punjab assembly on Monday unanimously passed a bill to pave the way for return of 5,376 acres of land acquired for the construction of Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal to its original owners or their heirs free of cost.
The Punjab Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Propriety Rights) Bill-2016, moved by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, got instant backing from the treasury and opposition members. Hours after Punjab’s move, the Haryana assembly, housed in the same complex, passed a unanimous resolution condemning the passage of the bill – a development that escalated the sensitive inter-state water war to a new high.
The Haryana resolution described the SYL land de-notification move as “unilateral, unconstitutional and denying the authority of the Supreme Court, a step only to draw political mileage”. Before the resolution was passed, Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki also said that he would act as per the Constitution. “If something unconstitutional happens legal options are always available to correct it,” Solanki told the protesting Congress MLAs in the Haryana assembly before delivering his address.
Solanki, who holds the additional charge of Punjab also, finds himself in a piquant situation on the river waters row. While the Punjab bill will now be presented to him for assent, he has been urged by Haryana MLAs to reject it to safeguard the interests of the state. His two-line statement, though not a part of his ceremonial address, hinted that the contentious bill, piloted by the Badal government, is unlikely to have a smooth sailing. Badal, acutely aware of the governor’s predicament, will lead an all-party delegation to Solanki on Tuesday to press for early assent to the bill.