DW Bureau / Chandigarh
Strap: Govt’s stand: There is no surplus water with Punjab; Rajasthan should also be invited for next meeting
Two days before the crucial meet on the SYL issue convened at the instance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Punjab government on Tuesday finalised its strategy following a series of deliberations and decided to rely on facts rather than talking legalities. It will make its stand clear to the Centre that there is no surplus water which could be allowed to flow to other States.
In two high-level meetings which were chaired by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Monday and Tuesday, the State has decided to send a signal to the Centre that the State is flexible to discuss the river waters issue but there is no question of compromising on Punjab’s interests. “We don’t want to send an impression either to the Centre or the Supreme Court that Punjab is adamant not to deliberate on the SYL issue. We will tell the Union government that there is no spare water available with Punjab, but the State is still willing to talk on the issue,” a top government functionary told Daily World.
Sources said the State of Punjab would also impress upon the Government of India that the river waters issue should not be discussed only between Punjab and Haryana, but Rajasthan should also be invited in these meetings in future since a major share of the waters was already going to Rajasthan.
The sources said that the AG, Atul Nanda was of the opinion that if the State presented the same facts that had been rejected by the Supreme Court, it would yield the same results as in the past. “He (the AG) wanted the State to present the facts but the strategy should be different,” the sources added.
The meetings were attended by Punjab’s Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, Advocate General Atul Nanda, Chief Principal Secretary to CM Suresh Kumar, Chief Secretary Karan A Singh, Special Chief Secretary (Irrigation) KBS Sidhu and retired Chief Engineer and consultant SK Goyal. KR Lakhanpal, Chairman of the Punjab Administrative Reforms and Ethics Commission, who played a major role in the drafting of the Punjab Termination of River Waters Agreement in 2004, also attended the meetings.
Sources said since no unanimity could be reached in the meeting held on Monday, the Chief Minister convened another meeting on Tuesday to finalise the State’s strategy for the PM’s meeting scheduled for April 20. The State of Punjab will be represented by Chief Secretary Karan A Singh, Special CS (Irrigation) KBS Sidhu and Punjab government’s consultant SK Goyal who will hold discussions with top officers of the central government on April 20.
Punjab has maintained that the State has been discriminated against in the matter of allocations of Ravi-Beas waters and the construction of SYL canal for transfer of 3.5 MAF waters to Yamuna basin areas of Haryana would render 9 lakh acres of Punjab arid. According to the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), the availability of surplus Ravi Beas waters has got reduced from 17.17 MAF assumed in 1981 agreement to 13.38 MAF based on the flow series 1981-2013. As a result, the availability of river waters to riparian state of Punjab had further been reduced.
Punjab further argues that instead of forcing it to construct SYL canal for inter basin transfer from deficit Ravi Beas waters to Yamuna basin areas of Haryana, storages over river Yamuna should be constructed to utilise water which is otherwise going waste and explore alternative sources for augmenting Yamuna flows to Haryana.