Thursday, September 19, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Political considerations behind SYL knot

THE SYL knot is getting tighter as the deadline for its completion set by the Supreme Court is drawing near. This issue has two distinct aspects — professional & political. Looked from a professional angle, it has quite a few advantages for all the partners of the Sutlej-Beas river waters. Punjab can benefit by additional power generation (50MW) and irrigation facility in the Morinda belt, where it is not available in the present arrangement.

In times of an extreme situation, Punjab would be able to transport a larger part of its share in the Sutlej-Beas waters to some areas of Punjab through the Bhakra Main Line (BML) by transporting an equivalent quantum of the Haryana and Rajasthan share through the SYL.

Similarly surplus water, which becomes available during certain periods in the Bhakra and cannot be used, being in excess of the capacity of the BML, can be used by the partners through the SYL. Similarly, Haryana will have the option of using a part of its share in the Sutlej-Beas waters in its southern areas beyond the reach of the Bhakra canals system.

Another important aspect is the ageing of the BML. Being nearly half a century old, it is vulnerable to breaches, causing loss of irrigation, damage by flooding and a huge cost of repairs. Silting of the BML is creating another problem for its effective functioning and reducing its capacity. The distinct possibility of such a situation, which may be in not a distant future, needs serious consideration of all partner states. The SYL would, in such an eventuality, be a useful alternative water conveyance system. Even in normal working, it can be used to carry a part of Haryana’s share, thereby reducing the burden of the BML and thereby chances of breaches in it.


The problem at this stage is that all the possible advantages have been drowned in the sea of political considerations in the two states. The situation has come to such a pass that the SC directive not withstanding, no Government in Punjab will have the courage to take up its construction; even if the Government wants to do it, people will not let it be done. Any central agency or even the Army may not be able to do it. This practical situation must be clearly understood by all concerned, including Haryana and the Central Government as also the courts. All this, however, does not imply that a solution is not possible.

The main hurdle in this task is the claim of Haryana in the Ravi waters, which as clarified by various writers and experts, is not justified from any angle: Riparian right, successor state right in common waters available to joint Punjab on 1.11.1966 or share in the total waters of the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi. Haryana should realise this practical situation that under no circumstances is it going to get any share in the Ravi waters; this subject is outside the jurisdiction of courts.

To end the stalemate, Haryana should withdraw its claim to the Ravi waters in clear unequivocal terms and further clarify that the SYL would be used either for transporting a part of Haryana’s share in the Sutlej-Beas waters or for the common benefit of the partners without disturbing Punjab’s usage. Once such a clarification is available, of course in a written agreement, I am sure all professional experts would welcome the construction of the SYL and the political atmosphere in Punjab presumably would not be averse to the arrangement.

HARBANS SINGH, ex-Chairman, PSEB, Jain (Hoshiarpur)

Non-issue becomes an issue: Some political parties of Punjab argue that Rajasthan and Haryana are not entitled to any water from the Ravi as these are not its riparian states. This is despite the fact that these very states are getting water from the Sutlej via the Bhakra canals under the similar condition. The ground reality is that these states have never staked any claim to the traditional share of Punjab in this river and hence the argument is rather superfluous.

The Indian Punjab has never been the exclusive user or owner of the entire Ravi water; Pakistan too had a share in it and has been using it till 1970, when the Government of India purchased it from Pakistan in lieu of its right of water in the Pakistani rivers of Chenab, Jhelum and Sindh (CJS). By no stretch of imagination can this purchased water be clubbed with the share of the Indian Punjab in the Ravi. It is a separate legal entity and has its own rules for ownership. The confusion got compounded when in the official correspondence, it began to be referred as “surplus Ravi water” to distinguish it from the “committed Ravi water”. The prefix “surplus” conveyed a wrong impression and did the mischief.

The misleading propaganda that Punjab being already deficit in water did not have any “surplus water” in the Ravi for being “spared” for Rajasthan and Haryana who were even not its riparian, brought the SYL canal work to a halt. Thus a socio-economic problem became a political one and slipped out of the hands of the bureaucracy for want of using more precise vocabulary for the disputed water i.e. “CJS water”.

For 20 long years, the aggrieved states did nothing to clear the cobwebs of misunderstanding about the identity of the CJS water and allowed a non-issue to snowball into an issue with monstrous dimensions of an inter state river-water scam.

Can this irrefutable information be an eye-opener for putting the SYL canal back on the rails?

S.P. MALHOTRA, Former Engineer-in-Chief, Haryana, Panchkula

Turmoil at Malwa College

Malwa College, Bondli, has been passing through a turmoil for over a month. First, the students went on strike in mid-July and boycotted their classes for 15 days. Strangely, no meeting of the staff or of the Discipline Committee was called by the Principal to resolve the issue. The students were demanding an enquiry into the misuse of amalgamated fund, action against the Principal on the basis of enquiries into the charges of embezzlement of funds, issuing fake certificates for a consideration, submitting fake medical bills, misuse of the students medical fund, NSS grants and misappropriation of a Rs 16 lakh grant received for the agro-tech project in the college.

The college has come under a heavy debt of more than Rs 25 lakh as the staff was paid their salary for six months after taking a loan of Rs 25 lakh from a local bank by pledging the FDRs of the Employee’s Provident Fund.

We, the Vice-Presidents of the Malwa Education Council, feel that the MEC President has no time and will to improve the worsening financial condition of the college and the school run by the MEC. The removal of the President from the MEC alone can defuse the crisis.



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