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Drama over dispute: Rajnath’s move to break ice between Punjab, Haryana on SYL deal falls flat

After Union minister presses for dialogue, Punjab says both states have agreed to initiate talks, Haryana shoots down Capt govt’s claim

punjab Updated: May 13, 2017 09:47 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
SYL canal,water wars,Sutlej river
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, his Punjab counterpart Capt Amarinder Singh and Union home minister Rajnath Singh in Chandigarh on Friday. (HT Photo)

Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Friday made a failed attempt to get Punjab and Haryana on board to try and find a mutually acceptable solution to the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue through dialogue.

Singh, who was chairing the 28th meeting of the Northern Zonal Council (NZC) here, suggested that the chief ministers and chief secretaries of the two states sit and discuss the canal issue threadbare to arrive at a solution.

“Efforts should first be made through marathon meetings, failing which the matter should be left to the court to decide,” he said. Both Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar were present.

While the home minister’s intervention did not get the desired response, the subsequent contradictory claims of the governments of Punjab and Haryana triggered a chain of events that revived the fault lines between the states over the controversial canal.

After the meet, Amarinder’s office released a press note which said that responding to the home minister’s call, both states had agreed to try and find a “collective solution to the dispute” through dialogue.

Rajnath Singh smiles to the camera as he stands with CM’s Amarinder and Khattar in Chandigarh on Friday, May 12, 2017. ( Anil Dayal/HT )

“The home minister’s plea came after the Punjab chief minister pushed for consensual resolution of the SYL dispute, while calling for coordination by the states concerned with the Government of India to find a feasible solution for optimal utilisation of river waters based on internationally accepted riparian principles,” it added.

But the claim was strongly rebutted by the Haryana government within hours, with agriculture minister OP Dhankar issuing a written statement, calling it “misleading and incorrect”. He said that Khattar had made it abundantly clear that there was no question of any dialogue on SYL since the Supreme Court’s judgment has attained finality and Haryana’s execution petition is listed for hearing in July, 2017.

He further said that all participating states had, in fact, agreed to hold meetings at the level of officers and political executives on all other contentious issues of sharing of power and water. Punjab and Haryana have been sparring over SYL, which was to carry the latter’s share of river waters, for decades.

Last month, the Centre held separate meetings with the chief secretaries of the two states without any signs of progress, as the two states had stuck to their oft-repeated positions.

First Published: May 12, 2017 19:05 IST