Source: News Bharati English11 Apr 2017 13:41:28

Chandigarh, April 11: Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Monday welcomed the centre’s decision to mediate and resolve the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna-Link (SYL) canal issue between with Punjab and Haryana. Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken a decision to hold a meeting of Punjab and Haryana on April 20 to resolve the issue.
However, Capt Amarinder Singh’s statement came in response to Centre’s submission in Supreme Court that PM Modi has called for a meeting between Punjab and Haryana on April 20. Interestingly, the Sutlej-Yamuna-Link canal issue is listed before the Supreme Court on April 12, 2017.

Capt Amarinder Singh said that he had been seeking the Centre's intervention in the matter to find the way of settlement to the issue in the interest of Punjab, which would be deprived of much-needed water if the SYL canal is constructed. “The state government is committed to protecting Punjab's water at any cost,” said Amarinder.

The question of allowing river water to go outside the state does not arise as Punjab does not have the surplus water to share with others, the Chief Minister said. He also noted the need for a fresh assessment of the quantum of river water actually available with Punjab before taking a final decision in the SYL matter. Allowing the SYL to be constructed before ascertaining the availability of water is like "putting the cart before the horse", Amarinder said. The Chief Minister on several occasions has also underlined that Punjab has been subjected to injustice in the matter of water allocation.

Punjab was represented by senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, Advocate General Atul Nanda, Advocate General and senior advocate RS Suri, while the Union of India was led by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.

Interestingly, the Congress's manifesto had also stated that "a Congress government will not allow construction of any new canals, including the SYL, that take Punjab's river waters outside its territorial jurisdiction."

Earlier, on November 10 the Supreme Court had declared Punjab's action to terminate agreements for the sharing of river waters with neighbouring states as unconstitutional and ordered that the state should allow the canal construction and give SYL water to neighbouring Haryana.

After Supreme Court’s verdict, Punjab government in mid-November last year passed a resolution to block construction of Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal. In a resolution passed in a specially convened Vidhan Sabha Session, the State assembly directed the Punjab Government, Cabinet and entire Government Officers and Officials neither to hand over any land of the state to any agency for the construction of the Canal nor allow anyone to work on this project and give any sort of cooperation for this purpose in the larger public interest.

Background:

Satluj Yamuna link is a canal that is built between river Sutlej and Yamuna to provide water for the farmers of Haryana from the Punjab side. It is about 122 km long and total length is about 495 km which includes the sub-canals. This matter heated up in 2004 when then chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh terminated the contracts for water sharing with the neighboring states. The matter was sent for Presidential reference.

On 21st March 2016, the Punjab Assembly passed the Punjab SYL Canal (Rehabilitation and Re-vesting of Proprietary Rights) Bill 2016, seeking to return land acquired for the canal’s construction to the original owners free of cost.