Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh


 Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh

 Within hours of Punjab government’s contention that it had agreed on Friday to a dialogue with Haryana on the SYL canal issue following Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s intervention, the latter strongly disputed the claim, saying it is “misleading and incorrect”.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had made it abundantly clear both in his printed speech and oral remarks that there was “no question of any dialogue on the SYL Canal issue” since the Supreme Court’s judgment has attained finality and Haryana’s execution petition is listed for hearing in July, said state Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister O.P. Dhankar, who was present in the NZC meeting.

File photo of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar
File photo of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar

A press note issued by the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office after the 28th meeting of the Northern Zonal Council (NZC) here earlier in the day said both states had agreed to try and find a mutually agreeable solution to the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue through dialogue.

Dhankar said that all participating states had in fact agreed to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s suggestion to hold meetings at the levels of officers and political executives on all other contentious issues related to sharing of power and river water.

According to the Punjab government, Rajnath Singh had suggested that the Chief Ministers and Chief Secretaries of both the states sit and discuss the issue threadbare to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to the vexed canal issue.

It said the Home Minister called for marathon discussions between both states to resolve the SYL issue.

“… efforts should first be made to find a solution through marathon meetings, failing which the matter should be left to the courts to decide,” the Punjab government quoted the Union Minister as saying at the NZC meeting.

In response, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh suggested that the Water Resources Ministry convene such a meeting at the earliest to take the issue forward.

The NZC comprises Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Chandigarh Union Territory. The last council meeting was held in New Delhi on April 25, 2015. 

Addressing Friday’s meeting, Amarinder Singh pushed for SYL dispute resolution through consensus, while calling for coordination by the states concerned with the Centre to find a feasible solution to ensuring optimal utilisation of river waters based on internationally accepted riparian principles.

The Supreme Court is hearing the SYL matter as the Punjab government refused to implement an apex court verdict — delivered on November 10, 2016, on a presidential reference — to allow the SYL canal construction to share river waters with Haryana.

The Punjab government has maintained it has no water to spare for Haryana.

Amarinder Singh said: “Though Haryana had less land, it was given more water at the time of Punjab’s reorganisation (in 1966).” He pointed out that Punjab did not get any share in the Yamuna water. 

He reiterated his demand for “re-assessment and re-determination of the availability of surface waters in the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers”.

The Punjab government claimed that Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said at the meeting that his government too is “willing to work towards an amicable settlement to every issue”, but laid emphasis on honouring agreements arrived at in the past. 

“Haryana is a water-stressed state, as availability of water is only 14.7 Million Acre Feet (MAF) against a demand of 36.0 MAF. We have to give, out of our own share in the Yamuna waters, extra water to Delhi in compliance with an apex court order, even as Punjab is not delivering Haryana’s full share of the Ravi-Beas waters,” Khattar said.

Khattar said it was a matter of national concern that even after signing of the Indus Water Treaty in 1960, more than three MAF water is allowed to flow into Pakistan.

Haryana Minister Dhankar said that Khattar had said that the northern state is more than willing to accept the water flowing into Pakistan during monsoon.