Tuesday, April 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Punjab, Haryana CMs clash over water
We are not seeking alms, says Chautala
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh shakes hands with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh shakes hands with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi while Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal and Mr Babu Lal Marandi, Chief Ministers of Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand, look on at the fifth meeting of the National Water Recources Council at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday.
— PTI photo

New Delhi, April 1
Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab sparred with each other on the issue of water sharing between the two states at a meeting here today of the National Water Resources Council in which they stuck to their stated positions.

Political sources said the no-holds-barred spar between the two Chief Ministers started when Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala directly asked his Punjab counterpart Capt Amarinder Singh why he was not implementing the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal and releasing water to Haryana.

First, Mr Chautala is understood to have made his demand softly saying that being the elder brother it was a duty of Punjab to see to it that the younger one does not suffer.

Capt Amarinder Singh’s argument was that his state believed that the apex court had erred in its judgement and would be filing a review petition in due course. Being a bigger state, Punjab’s needs were also bigger and a smaller state like Haryana could not have a larger share of water than it.

When Mr Chautala did not see the desired results coming forth he made it clear that he was demanding Haryana’s rightful due as enunciated by the Supreme Court too and was not seeking any “alms”.

“Haryana ka Ravi-Beas ke paani par poora adhikar hai, weh koi khairat nahi maang raha hai,” (Haryana has full rights over the waters of Ravi-Beas and is not seeking any alms), an aggressive Mr Chautala made it clear.

Significantly, he also stated that the people of Haryana knew how to take their rights. He pointed out at the meeting that the Supreme Court had directed the Punjab Government to construct and complete the SYL canal within a year and, therefore, the Punjab Government should do the needful at the earliest possible to help Haryana in getting its share of Ravi-Beas waters.

Meanwhile, Capt Amarinder Singh gave a dissenting note at the National Water Resources Council meeting.

Objecting to the National Water Policy, Capt Amarinder Singh said it did not take into account the riparian principles for the allocation of water to the basin states. He objected to the creation of river basin organisation (RBO) to manage water resources of a particular basin amongst different states.

According to an official spokesman, the Chief Minister said that ‘water’ had been allotted to the states in the 7th Schedule under Article 246 of the Constitution and the National Water Policy adopted in 1998 also incorporated the principle that the existing and future needs of water of each basin state would be fully protected. He said that the resolution on National Water Policy did not incorporate these principles.

Responding to the issue of SYL raised by Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, Capt Amarinder Singh said though the court had ordered the construction of the canal, the dispute regarding how much water was to be given to Haryana had not yet been resolved. Questioning the wisdom of constructing the canal, he wondered what would happen if it was finally decided to not give any water to Haryana.

The Chief Minister stressed the need for accepting the riparian principle as the universal principle for the allocation of water of a particular basin.

He said that Punjab’s existing usage and future needs of a basin state must be fully protected. Pointing out that agriculture dominated the lives of the people of the state, he said Punjab’s agriculture was dependent on water which was also an emotive issue for the people of the state.

The Chief Minister said as part of reorganisation of Punjab in 1966 and redistribution of water by the government in 1976, the water resources of the state were allocated between Punjab and Haryana in such a manner that Punjab, which has 105 lakh acre of cultivable land received only 12 MAF of water while Haryana with 80 lakh acres of cultivable land received 14.5 MAF of water. This, he said, was perceived as discrimination with Punjab by the people of the state.

He said water issue had been exploited by a neighbouring country to create turmoil in the state for a decade and the issue was not only sensitive to Punjab but to the nation. 


PM blames diesel, power subsidies for
low water table
Tribune News Service

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at the meeting of the National Water Resources Council.
— Tribune photo Mukesh Aggarwal

New Delhi, April 1
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today held power and diesel subsidies responsible for the depleting groundwater level in the country and underlined the importance of community development programmes in arresting the trend.

“We also need to clearly understand that subsidies for power and diesel have been largely responsible for over-exploitation of groundwater, leading to sharp lowering of the water table in many regions. In turn, this has led to increased use of energy for irrigation and further expenditure on energy subsidies”, Mr Vajpayee said while inaugurating the fifth meeting of the National Water Resources Council here.

Urging state governments to encourage and promote community action, the Prime Minister said every drop of rainwater was a national priority.

It was also important to reduce the inefficient use of water in both agriculture and industry, he said.

Calling for the introduction of a new system of assessment, Mr Vajpayee said it was important to devise a method where the productivity of every unit of water used in agriculture, was assessed the same way as productivity of every unit of investment was calculated in industry.

Speaking at the meeting, Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala urged the Centre to ensure that water-surplus states provided the same to deficit ones and the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal was completed within a year.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal demanded water for drinking and irrigation needs of nearby villages from various completed Central hydro-electric projects such as Bhakra, Pong Dam and the Beas and Sutlej link, which had been set up in the state.

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