The meeting between the Chief Ministers of Punjab, Haryana and the Minister of Water Power on Tuesday on the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal was inconclusive. Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh, opposing the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, has bluntly said that it is an emotional issue for the state.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Water Power Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat were in New Delhi, while Amarinder Singh joined them via video link from Chandigarh itself. In the meeting held on the instructions of the Supreme Court, both the states were adamant on their stand. The Supreme Court on 28 July directed the Central Government to mediate in a decades-old dispute. This is the first meeting between the Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab in this matter.
Punjab will burn if it is asked to share water with Haryana and the issue has the potential to “disturb nation’s security”, Chief Minister Capt.Amarinder Singh told the Centre. The Punjab CM further explained that this issue can help Pakistan in disturbing the national security as he said, “This will become a national problem and will have its impact on Haryana and Rajasthan. Pakistan can revive the separatist movement of the banned Sikhs for Justice organization by touting the issue. This issue can also affect national security.”
Both the Chief Ministers described the first meeting on SYL canal as amicable and agreed to speak again in Chandigarh. During the meeting, Punjab expressed reluctance to share water through the SYL canal project and said that it does not have additional water. Amarinder reiterated the need for a tribunal for a time-bound assessment of river water availability.
Shekhawat suggested that SYL work can be completed, while negotiations can continue till final sharing of water formula is finalized. He said, “the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana have put their respective viewpoints. The next meeting will start from where it has ended and whatever the outcome of the meeting, we will apprise the Supreme Court.”
The issue of SYL is more political for Punjab. This matter has the potential to change the government in the state. On this issue, the Supreme Court has repeatedly given decisions in favor of Haryana. In 2017, a case of contempt of the Supreme Court was also filed against the Punjab government, when the Punjab government convened a cabinet meeting on the very next day of the decision in favor of Haryana, and issued orders taking the contrary decision of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court last month asked the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana to resolve the SYL issue through negotiations. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said that there is a need for a larger political dialogue on the issue. The bench really wants to know from both the states whether they can resolve the dispute through dialogue or not? The Supreme Court will now hear the case in the third week of August. At the same time, the Punjab government had said in the Supreme Court that it cannot ignore the interests of its farmers and provide water to other states.
Punjab also said that the Supreme Court should not hear the matter but the matter should be heard before the tribunal. Punjab says that the state has the initial right over the water of Sutlej, Yamuna and Beas rivers. Punjab also said that they want to follow the court order but cannot do so by ignoring their farmers. The Punjab government said, “Our farmers will die of hunger then why should we share water of river Sutlej, Yamuna and Beas. Water is our need.” Due to this attitude of Punjab, the solution of this matter has not been found for years.