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Black flags greet central govt’s SYL damage inspection team

Amid high security and Akali protests, central officials gather video and photo evidence of all the damage to canal

punjab Updated: Mar 22, 2016 20:20 IST
Vishal Rambani
Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times
SYL canal,punjab haryana dispute,water wars

Black flags on World Water Day greeted a central team assessing damage to the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal in Punjab. The visit was supposed to be secret.

The protesting farmers and Akali workers are against sharing water with Haryana. A bill has de-notified the SYL land, and without waiting for assent from the governor, farmers have reclaimed a huge part of the channel and plundered its tree wealth.

As the three-member team — led by Home Ministry’s joint secretary (centre-state) Dilip Kumar and escorted by Punjab irrigation department secretary Kahan Singh Pannu — reached Kami Kalan amid high security, the farmers and local residents, Akalis mostly, showed them black flags and raised slogans against the SYL project, Centre, and Haryana government.

The team made a video of every point where the canal was filled or dismantled. Its members were unavailable to the media. “Punjab has not even a drop of water for anyone. The SYL is history,” shouted a protester, while the team was comparing the before-and-after maps.

The speed with which villagers received black flags and mobilised at every location made it clear that the visit’s secrecy had been given away at the political level. At Kami Kalan near Ghanaur, former Akali minister Ajiab Singh Mukhmailpur, whose wife, Harpreet Kaur, is sitting legislator, led the protest. Justice Nirmal Singh and former MLA Didar Singh Bhatti confronted the central team at Bassi Pathana and Chunni, respectively.

“Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has made it clear that Punjab has no water to spare and that the Shiromani Akali Dal won’t allow the SYL at any cost. We want the central team to know that,” said Mukhmailpur. In a report to the visiting team, the Punjab government has claimed that the canal was occupied and damaged before the status-quo order from the Supreme Court.

The team went to Kapoori; Alampur near Chitkara University; Majjat near Chunni Kalan; Morinda and Inderpur Dhaki on the Rupnagar-Anandpur Sahib road; Doomcheri, and half a dozen other places in Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib and Rupnagar districts through which the SYL passes. It will submit a report to the Home Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). “We have cooperated with the team and provided it will all the information required,” said state irrigation secretary Pannu.

Some farmers want canal, not land

Fatehgarh Sahib: Some of the local farmers say that if the water is kept for Punjab, they will take the SYL instead of the land, since the level of groundwater in the area has fallen drastically.

The central SYL inspection team took 10 members to Chunni Khurd and Bhateri in Fatehgarh Sahib district on Tuesday morning. At these villages, farmers had started filling the canal shortly after the state government had passed a bill denying water to Haryana through this channel.

After 10 minutes of inspection, team leader Dilip Kumar took some pictures of the spot on his mobile phone and also got a video made. He didn’t interact with the media and local people. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) district president Ranjit Singh Libra, former legislator Didar Singh Bhatti, and party’s working committee member Gurpreet Singh, gathered hundreds of supporters for a protest against this inspection.

Akali leaders said the Home Ministry’s joint secretary for Centre-state relations had refused to listen to them. HTC

First Published: Mar 22, 2016 20:18 IST