Thursday, January 16, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet Secy convenes meeting on SYL
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 15
The Cabinet Secretary, Mr Kamal Pande, has called a review meeting on the SYL—Sutlej Yamuna Link— canal in New Delhi on January 24.

Sources told TNS tonight that the Chief Secretaries of Punjab and Haryana are invitees to that meeting for which the communication was sent to the two states on January 9, before Punjab had filed its petition in the Supreme Court. It is learnt that the Centre wants to work out an “action plan” for completion of the SYL canal in the light of the Supreme Court directive.

The January 14, 2002 judgment of the Supreme Court had inter alia said that in case Punjab failed to construct and complete the canal within one year, which means till today, January 15, the Centre should intervene, as per its Constitutional duty to have it completed to enable Haryana draw its share of water.

A couple of Union Secretaries concerned have also been called to the meeting. They include secretaries of Law, Water Resources and Home.

The stand of the two states is well known. Both have held all-party meetings and raised public debates. In the light of the two states having taken a strident stand, what modalities are discussed and eventually worked out in the January 24 meeting remains to be seen, as the matter is once again in the Supreme Court.

The Haryana segment of the SYL canal, measuring 91 km, was completed in June 1980, while, the 121-km Punjab portion is yet to be completed. Though 95 per cent work on the Punjab segment stands completed up to June 1990, major works to be executed include the Sirsa aqueduct. The expenditure incurred by Punjab, as in July 2001, is Rs 674 crore.

Several deadlines for the completion of SYL, December 1983, August 1986, December 1987, March 1988, June 1989 and January 1991 have gone by. So far, political and administrative efforts to break the impasse between the two states have failed.

Therefore, Haryana filed a suit in September 1996, which was decided upon on January 14, 2002, by the Supreme Court. The Centre and Punjab had filed their replies in March, 1997. Punjab had also filed a list of interrogatories in October 1998, Haryana filed replies to these in January 1999 and the Supreme Court granted six weeks’ time to Punjab to file a rejoinder to Haryana replies. Punjab replied in April 1999. The last hearing was in August 2001.

While the Congress, Akalis, along and BJP in Punjab are yet to close ranks in defence of riparian rights of the state, Haryana Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala, has led a delegation to the Prime Minister. Punjab is to call a special Assembly session. Haryana’s Congress unit today held a demonstration in New Delhi.

The issue is more complex than it appears, but only words and more words keep flowing rather than water. But irrigation engineers agree on one point: unbuilt SYL, as is where is, is more harmful to Punjab and its agriculture than a flowing canal.

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