The Punjab Legislative Assembly passed a resolution, directing the state government to demand charges for river waters flowing to the non-riparian states of Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.
Satluj Yamuna Link Canal (SARYU) or SYL as it is popularly known, is a proposed 214-kilometer (133 mi) long canal in India to connect the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers.
Assembly asked the state government to seek the help of the Centre to recover the charges for the state’s waters.
It also directed the Punjab government, council of ministers and all state government employees not to hand over any land to any agency for the construction of the SYL canal; neither let any agency do any work on it, nor cooperate with any agency for the construction of the SYL canal.
The proposal was mooted by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
Initially, the state government was contemplating bringing in the demand of remuneration through a bill–Punjab State Ownership, Utilisation and Imposition of Cess on Water Bill. However, being a money bill, this required a nod from the Governor. However, the state government got indications that the Governor would not give his nod to bring in a money bill in the emergency session.
It was thus decided to use all provisions envisaged in the draft bill into a resolution and issue directions to the state government for its implementation.
The resolution, moved by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal during the assembly’s special one-day session, was adopted in the absence of 42 Congress legislators who had resigned on November 11 from the 117-member house to protest against a Supreme Court verdict on a Presidential reference by dubbing a 2004 law passed by the Punjab assembly to end a water-sharing agreement as “unconstitutional”.
The Punjab Assembly passed the Punjab Sutlej-Yamuna Link 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, and thereby completely destroy the work (still incomplete after more than three decades) to channel to Haryana its duly allotted share of the waters of the Ravi and the Beas.
Even though the Governor’s assent has not come for the Bill, work on levelling the land, scooping earth and flora along the canal began at fever pitch, causing ecological damage and wiring up the original owners into frenzied activity.
The Presidential reference was sought after the Punjab assembly in 2004 passed the controversial ‘Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Bill’ to end all water-sharing laws with other states.
Recently, five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ordered status quo on land marked for the construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal.
The origins of the crisis go back to 2004, when the State passed the Punjab Termination of Agreements legislation. With this, it reneged on its upper-riparian responsibility to share water with Haryana through the SYL Canal.
The matter went to the Supreme Court, and hearing finally started this month. The 2004 abdication has now been aggravated by wilful destruction of parts of the canal, on which hundreds of crores of rupees have already been spent.
Indeed, by the 1990s, much of the construction of the 212-km-long canal had been completed in Punjab.