Monday, February 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Punjab, Haryana river waters dispute: confusion manipulated

The seeds of the dispute between Punjab and Haryana about sharing of river waters were sown in the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966. The erstwhile Punjab, before reorganisation had a share of 5.6 million acres feed (MAF) in the waters of the Yamuna as a co-riparian. The said Act by a specific provision passed on this entire share of 5.6 MAF of erstwhile (joint) Punjab to Haryana. This was a very unfair act.

The decision of all available unutilised river waters should have been done on a uniform principle; the Yamuna waters could not be treated in isolation. Two alternatives were available. One was to pool all the unutilised waters of the Ravi, Beas and Yamuna (and even Ghaggar) and distributed in the broadly applicable ratio of 60:40.

The other alternative was to adopt the riparian rights principle according to which the Yamuna waters would go to Haryana and the Ravi-Beas waters to Punjab.

The framers of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, presumably followed the second alternative — riparian right in respect of the Yamuna but very unfairly, and probably deliberately omitted a similar provision for the Ravi waters which should have been allocated to Punjab. Allocation of Beas waters, as per Punjab Reorganisation Act, was to be in accordance with the project provision and probably would not have created a dispute of current proportions.


The reference of the dispute to the Supreme Court, though by common consent of both states, was not a correct decision from the point of view of Punjab. The action of the successor Chief Minister, Darbara Singh, to withdraw the case from the Supreme Court was a very wise decision, first because the river water dispute, according to Article 262(2) of the Indian Constitution and clause 11 of the Inter State River Waters Dispute Act, 1956(ISRWDA), is outside the jurisdiction of the courts. Second, an adverse decision as the one in the case of the SYL canal would have put Punjab in a very awkward situation.

After rejection of the various subsequent awards and agreements by one or both governments, the latest in the matter was the Rajiv-Longowal agreement of July, 1985. This provided that (I) the quantum of water being received by the states as on 1.7.85, would not be reduced; and (ii) quantum of remaining water would be determined by a Tribunal to be appointed under the ISRWDA and its distribution among the claimant states would also be decided by the said Tribunal.

Whereas the first provision has been and is unquestionable, the second provision led Punjab into a catch. First, it was wrong and harmful for Punjab to accept that the Ravi water was disputable and distributable. Second, a Tribunal of the type agreed, is basically unconstitutional and outside the ambit of law. Such a Tribunal clause 11 of the Act, can be set up only for an inter-state-river or a river-valley. The Ravi is not an inter-state river so far as Haryana and Rajasthan are concerned, nor can Haryana, by any stretch of imagination, be termed as a part of the Ravi basin according to the standard system of demarcating basin areas.

Thus, the Tribunal (Eradi Tribunal) is an illegal entity and its award has no legal force or authority. This is apart from the fact that the Eradi award is full of wrong and unjustified assumptions and facts, leading to an unjustified, unfair and unacceptable award.

The SYL canal cannot be de-linked from the resolution of the river waters dispute between Punjab & Haryana and its construction without resolving the waters dispute would be an unwise act and unnecessary waste of a huge block of money.

HARBANS SINGH, ex-Chairman, PSEB, Chandigarh

Jurisdiction: Mr Anupam Gupta in his legal comments, SYL canal: Supreme Court acts beyond jurisdiction (Feb 4) has rightly observed that the apex court’s time-bound direction “has the potential to set the Thames, nay Ravi and Beas, on fire”. Punjab has so far not discovered any mineral wealth and the water of the Sutlej, Ravi and Beas, which is the only natural wealth Punjab possesses, is an issue of life and death for the farmers of Punjab who consider it as theirs by right.

Article 262 of the Constitution of India makes it clear that Parliament may by law oust the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India in case of any inter-state rivers water dispute and in exercise of this power. “The Water Disputes Act 1956” has been enacted by Parliament. But the difficulty is that each branch of the constitutional system, these days, is out to expand the scope of its powers forgetting that when a star crosses its orbit, it is bound to crash.

In explaining the scope of Article 262, the Joint Parliamentary Committee in its report had accepted the riperian principle w.r.t. river waters by observing that “each province has complete powers over water supplies within the province without any regard, whatsoever, to the interests of the neighbouring provinces...”

The Eradi Commission also violated the terms of the Rajiv-Longowal accord, paragraphs 9 (1) and 9 (2) of which constituted its terms of reference, when during verification of claims instead of confining the scope of its enquiry to use of water by each State on 1.7.1985, the commission included in its verification the pre-partition use of the Ravi-Beas waters to Punjab and excluded the surplus waters which Haryana had been using so far from the Yamuna.

A study of militancy in Punjab reveals that rural discontent in Punjab has a potential to take the form of “Sikh struggle” against the government in Delhi because the farmers in Punjab are largely Sikhs who may misinterpret digging of the SYL canal to carry water of Punjab rivers as communal injustice. One must learn from past mistakes and now allow them to be repeated.



Managing Ph.D.

I salute Dr B.L. Chakoo for his bold comments contained in Ph.D: the highest degree easily manageable (Feb 7). What he says is absolutely right except for one per cent of teachers. The one point he misses is that the number of Ph.Ds “supervised/carried out” under a particular teacher gives weight for his merit promotion.

I think some “family planning” programme is needed in our universities for controlling the unwanted birth of Ph.Ds. Probably, the UGC can introduce rigorous tests, as in the case of JRFs and lecturers’ eligibility tests, for those wanting to take up doctoral research in universities.

I have often observed the supervisors personally visiting the examiners and imploring to okay the dissertations of their students. They also develop some sort of nexus and mutual understanding. There are also cases of professors writing the theses for their sons/daughters.

K.A. SHAN, Chandigarh

Not easy: Apropos the article by Dr B.L. Chakoo, I refute his opinion on the “easy” procurement of the highest degree. Instead of mocking at the research methodologies of the “universities of excellence,” one needs to suggest some corrective measures. A UGC test is purely memory-based academic exercise and cannot judge the research potentialities of a Ph.D candidate. The writer should have kept in mind that one of the universities of excellence, that is, Panjab University, has recommended an entrance for the Ph.D enrolment to test the research aptitude.

Although his concern for the loopholes in the doctoral research is appreciable, doubting the sincerity of the supervisors is detrimental for the students willing to pursue Ph.D.


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