Friday, February 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Punjab’s waters & leaders

In the context of the distribution of the Punjab waters, leaders are never tired of posing as great heroes and painting their opponents as arch villains. Much dust has been thrown in the eyes of the people. However, here are some facts which are indispensable.

Soon after partition, the Centre wanted to give a big chunk of the Punjab waters to Rajasthan, but this was not permissible under the provisions of the Constitution. It bypassed the Constitution by making the Congress Chief Minister of Punjab to sign an agreement which gifted away 8 m.a.f of water to Rajasthan. After the reorganisation of the state, the Centre allocated 3.5 m.a.f of waters of the Punjab rivers to Haryana, which had become non-riparian to the Punjab rivers according to the riparian principles embodied in the Constitution.

The joint Punjab received 5.6 m.a.f. of water from the Yamuna because a part of it (now Haryana) fell in its basin. Against the demand of Haryana for water from the Punjab rivers, the reorganised Punjab made a claim on the waters of the Yamuna; but it was rejected on the ground that it had become non-riperian to the Yamuna after the reorganisation. By the same logic Haryana had become non-riperian to the rivers of Punjab; but it was allocated 3.5 m.a.f of water by the Centre through an award.

Chief Ministers of Punjab, one after the other, have acquiesced in this award. Giani Zail Singh, a Congress Chief Minister, received Rs 1.5 crore from his Haryana counterpart, B.D. Gupta, for the construction of the S.Y.L. canal meant for conveying this water to Haryana. Mr Parkash Singh Badal, an Akali Chief Minister, accepted Rs 1.5 crore from Devi Lal for constructing the canal. Darbara Singh, a Congress Chief Minister, withdrew Punjab’s petition from the Supreme Court under coercion from Indira Gandhi, and signed an agreement legitimising the allocation of waters to Haryana and Rajasthan. Later, he grumbled that he had been made to do so “at the point of gun”. Mr Badal called it a “death sentence on the farmers of Punjab”.


A little later, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal agreed to complete the canal as one of the several clauses of the Rajiv Longowal pact. (The chief clause of this pact, which was unwritten, provided that the Akalis would be allowed to form their government in the state.) Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, who became Chief Minister by fishing in the troubled waters, did his best to complete the canal — 90 per cent of the constructed portion was built by him. The construction work was stopped only after militants killed a number of workers and engineers. Now, how Capt Amarinder Singh will fare remains to be seen.

The bitter truth is that Chief Ministers rule over Punjab at the pleasure of the Centre; they cannot survive by antagonising Delhi, which has a strangle-hold on states. And led by their lust for power, they, the Akalis no less than the Congressmen, are always ready to sacrifice the interests of the state. The Centre, whichever the government there, has its own motives.

H.J. SINGH, Chandigarh

Haryana awaits water

Please refer to your editorial “In hot waters again” (Jan. 16). We can see a lot of rhetoric and drama in political circles of Punjab and Haryana in the name of the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal these days. The Supreme Court judgement of January 14, 2002, has not borne any fruit so far and the SYL issue has snowballed into a major controversy between Punjab and Haryana. The leaders of different political parties in both states are busy issuing sectarian and parochial statements. They are outsmarting one another in adopting rigid postures and playing up regional sentiments.

Work on the SYL started in 1980 but unfortunately it still remains incompleted. This is more than flesh and blood can endure. The people of Haryana have been waiting for justice for more than two decades; even the Supreme Court has vindicated their stand but the Punjab Chief Minister says: “We don’t have any water to spare for Haryana”. Mr Parkash Singh Badal went a step further at the Maghi Mela held on January 14 in Muktsar and threatened that his party “would not allow the water to flow to Haryana through the SYL canal even if the Supreme Court decided in its (Haryana’s) favour”. Well, Mr Badal is the supreme leader of his party and he is not answerable to any national level boss but the case of Capt Amarinder Singh is entirely different.

There is an English proverb “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”. We can understand his political compulsions but he should not put forward such arguments which hold little water. He is opposing tooth and nail the completion of the SYL canal whereas his party leader in Haryana, Mr Bhajan Lal, led an effective demonstration in New Delhi on January 15 in which thousands of common people participated braving an icy cold. The ideas of these two prominent Congress leaders are anti-thetical keeping in mind their affiliation with a national-level political party. The people of Haryana would like to know what Ms Sonia Gandhi says about such ante-diluvian tactics of her own state level leaders. After all, Haryana is asking only a part of its total share of 3.5 MAF in the Ravi-Beas system.

The review petition filed on January 13 by the Punjab Government under Article 131 aims at proving the futility of the Supreme Court verdict of January 14, 2002, in its entirety. If it is accepted in toto by the apex court, Punjab will get discharged from the obligation to construct the SYL canal, the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, will become ineffective and the Government of India will forfeit its right to distribute the waters of the Ravi-Beas. The Punjab Government is not bound to the Rajiv-Longowal accord also as it does not have any legal and constitutional validity under Article 299. Last but not the least, even the judgement of the Supreme Court has been seriously questioned as it was delivered by a Bench of less than five judges. The review petition, inter alia, seeks to connect the SYL dispute with the territorial controversy also (including the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab). To all intents and purposes, the Punjab Government is in no mood to implement the verdict of the apex court.

The irrigation engineers of the region believe (as per The Tribune news report, Jan. 16) that an “unbuilt SYL, as is where is, is more harmful to Punjab and its agriculture than a flowing canal”. Punjab has already spent Rs 674 crore on the SYL, therefore, an unbuilt canal means this huge amount of Punjab will go down the drain.

R.B. YADAV DEHATI, Fatehabad

Sahir’s verse

In his letter “Jineh naaz hai Hind par...” (Jan 29), Mr L.R. Sharma has quoted Sahir Ludhianavi’s verse as “Ek shehanshah ne banvaa ke haseen Taj Mahal, hum gareebon ki mohabbat ka udaya hai mazak”.

The last couplet of Sahir’s poem on Taj Mahal actually reads as “Ik shahanshah ney daulat ka sahaara ley kar/Ham ghareebon kee mohabbat ka uraaya hai mazaaq”. A poet writes a verse with great imaginative and intuitive powers and beauty of thought and language. Therefore, it should be quoted correctly.

Some sensitive poor people may say mutatis mutandis “Ek See Em ney position ka sahaara ley kar/Ham ghareebon key janam din ka uraaya hai mazaaq”.

Incidentally, the actual line of Sahir’s poem “Chakley” (Red light area) is “Sana-khaan-e taqdees-e-mashriq kahaan hain” (Where are those, who sing the praises of Oriental — India’s — holiness?). When this poem was used as a song for the film Piyaasa, the line was made as “Jinhein naaz hai Hind par voh kahaan hain”, apparently for the reason that most of the people could not understand the meanings of the original hemistich.



Ode for Kalpana

With years as first in her class

She knew the fears —

That if you ask too much of it

Metal shrieks, tears,

Falls apart in pieces.

A technical fact to her.

All the world to us.

Fire consumes a nation’s heart.

This Karnal girl sought the skies.

Space shuttles whispered in her ear

And she answered head to feet.

We keep her smile in that last video.

Like Seneca, she thought

“The whole universe is my native land.”

Now more than ever, dear one.

We weep.

ROBERT D. BLACKWILL, US Ambassador, New Delhi



State of the Union speech

A very rich Saudi Arabian princess recently ordered a state-of-the-art music system, but one which would respond by voice rather than by the normal hand switch. The makers of the system gave her a trial run and asked her to call into it.

She first said Waltz, and the system responded by playing the “Blue Danube”. She next asked for a Tango, and the system played “Lapa loma”. The third call was for a Rumba, and the music played “Brazil”. She wanted one more try. She said Silly Ass, and the system responded, “George Bush’s State of the Union speech”.

Brig N.B. GRANT (retd), Pune


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