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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

Centre calls meet to resolve SYL Canal issue on August 16

The August 16 meeting being convened on the court’s direction will be chaired by the secretary, Union ministry of water resources, and attended by the chief secretaries of Haryana and Punjab. The principal secretaries, irrigation, of both states will also be present.

punjab Updated: Aug 15, 2019 08:16 IST
Hitender Rao
Hitender Rao
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
At present, Haryana gets 1.62 MAF of Ravi and Beas waters.
At present, Haryana gets 1.62 MAF of Ravi and Beas waters.(HT file photo)
         

Top officials of the central, Haryana and Punjab governments will meet in Delhi on Friday to discuss the completion of the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal.

The Supreme Court had in its January 15, 2002, and June 4, 2004, judgments ordered the completion of the remaining portion of the canal in Punjab.

The August 16 meeting being convened on the court’s direction will be chaired by the secretary, Union ministry of water resources, and attended by the chief secretaries of Haryana and Punjab. The principal secretaries, irrigation, of both states will also be present.

Finding that its orders had not been implemented, the Supreme Court on July 9 requested the chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana to form a committee of officers and ensure that they deliberate with the intervention of the Center at the highest level to work out a solution. “Any alternative can only be one that is acceptable in toto to Haryana and Rajasthan,” the court said.

The case comes up for hearing on September 3.

‘Ravi, Beas water share non-negotiable’

“The stance of the Haryana government is clear. Our share of 3.5 million acre feet (MAF) in the Ravi and Beas waters and the completion of the canal are absolutely non-negotiable. Punjab has to comply with the Supreme Court orders,” a top state government official said. At present, Haryana gets 1.62 MAF of Ravi and Beas waters.

The Supreme Court had on July 11, 2017, said that the authorities of both states remember that a decree passed by the apex court has to be respected and executed. “Our granting of time does not endow Punjab with any kind of liberty to devour time and pave the path of procrastination. On the contrary, to take a stand of amiability and amicability so that the facilitator, that is, the central government can bring both parties together to resolve the issue,” the SC had said.

Centre’s alternative to settle the dispute

In 2017, the central government had made efforts to settle the dispute by offering an alternative. It proposed that instead of completing the SYL Canal, the Hansi-Butana Bhakra Main Line link canal could be operational under the supervision of an independent agency such as the Bhakra Beas Management Board. The Centre also suggested that additional water to the tune of 1000 cusecs can be released in Haryana from the savings to be effected by Punjab.

However, the move did not find favour with Punjab, Haryana officials said.

Presidential reference

Answering a presidential reference in the matter, a constitution bench of the Supreme Court had on November 10, 2016, set aside the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, a law which unilaterally terminates Punjab’s water sharing pact with Haryana. “The Punjab Act cannot be said to be in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and by virtue of the said Act, Punjab cannot nullify the judgment and decree referred to hereinabove and terminate the December 1981 agreement,” the Supreme Court had said.

In its January 15, 2002, and June 4, 2004, judgments, it ordered the completion of the remaining portion of the canal in Punjab. But on July 12, 2004, the Punjab assembly enacted the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, annulling all inter-state agreements signed by Punjab relating to sharing the Ravi and Beas waters, including the December 1981 tripartite agreement signed by the chief ministers of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

On July 22, 2004, the Centre sought the opinion of the Supreme Court on the validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act by making a Presidential reference under Article 143 of the Constitution.

First Published: Aug 14, 2019 16:14 IST

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