Punjab must protect its interests

When I took over as Legal Remembrancer and Secretary to Punjab Government, Legal Affairs, in April 1980, a Punjab suit challenging the validity of the water sharing agreement of 1976 among Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan was pending in the Supreme Court. I was present when a three-Judge Bench, after hearing the arguments, had referred the matter to the River Water Tribunal as the dispute was basically about the riparian rights of three states.

The then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, who was losing the Hindu vote in the north, was out to please Rajasthan before the Lok Sabha elections. She ordered a canal to be dug up to Rajasthan before elections. She was not bothered how much water, taken from Punjab following the 1976 agreement, was wasted in Rajasthan. According to Mr Balram Jakhar’s report, some villages on the banks of the canal sunk because of seepage. But Mrs Gandhi achieved her objective and won the elections.

Subsequently, Mrs Gandhi prevailed upon Chief Minister Darbara Singh to withdraw the case from the Supreme Court. I accompanied Darbara Singh to plead Punjab’s case with the then Law Minister P. Shiv Shankar. After hearing us for three hours, he said that we should do what Mrs Gandhi wanted. The case was withdrawn.



Mrs Gandhi, without bothering about the water flowing in the two rivers for 20 years, arbitrarily picked up the highest flow in a single year and made it a basis of the fresh formula by which the share of each state was determined. She forced Darbara Singh to agree to the new proposal. That is how the agreement of Dec 31, 1981 was got signed by him. It is that agreement, biased and one-sided, which the Punjab Assembly had annulled on July 12, 2004, to safeguard the interests of millions of farmers of Punjab.

Legal Remembrancer &
Secretary, Legal Affairs (retd),
(Punjab), Mohali


The bedrock of democracy is supremacy of law and its effective enforcement. If the law is twisted or circumvented, it creates more problems than it solves. This is exactly what has happened in the case of the SYL canal.

The assets between Punjab and Haryana were to be divided in the ratio of 60:40. Fixed assets were not to be divided. The 1976 award divided the river waters (through a fixed asset) of east Punjab in the following manner: Rajasthan: 8 MAF (non-riparian); Haryana: 3.5 MAF (non-riparian); and Punjab: 3.5 MAF (riparian). The division was not in the ratio of 60:40.

In the undivided Punjab, Punjab’s share of the Yamuna water was 5.6 MAF. If this is taken into account, then Haryana has a total of 9.1 MAF (3.5 from Punjab rivers and 5.6 from the Yamuna). Haryana, with just 40 per cent of the land area, has more than twice the water of Punjab. Punjab has been denied the Yamuna water because it is non-riparian. The water allowance in Punjab is 2.99 cusecs per 1000 acres while in Haryana and Rajasthan it is 5 cusecs per 1000 acres. Ignoring the riparian principle will open a Pandora’s box as all the states with contiguous borders, but which are not riparian, will start demanding water from each other.

As far as the interlinking of rivers is concerned, let this not become an excuse to deny Punjab its legitimate share of water.



Having declared that Punjab will not abide by the agreements on SYL, it has started another chapter in Indian politics where anyone can reject any agreement on any issue. I feel betrayed by the Punjab Assembly resolution not because I am a Haryanavi , but because I am also a citizen of this nation. I don’t want to be cheated so openly by any Chief Minister.

If Chief Ministers do not show respect to agreements, what is the sanctity of all those on sharing of power, roads, highways and so on? How can these democratically elected leaders expect the general public to follow the rules and judgements of the Supreme Court when they are not ready to set any exemplary example? Chief Ministers and political leaders should keep in mind the larger interests of the people, transcending the boundaries of their respective states.



The resolution passed by the Punjab Assembly annulling river water agreements with neighboring states and the Centre is a matter of serious concern. If not resolved immediately, this may have serious repercussions in the inter-states relations. Imagine if other states emulate Punjab and scrap agreements relating to sharing of natural resources and so on. It will jeopardise the social fabric of the nation.

What will happen if Haryana and Rajasthan stopped rail and road services to and from Punjab? Will it not isolate Punjab from the rest of India creating ethnic and social disharmony? Political leaders must foresee political repercussions and mischief potential of such situations.

I appeal to the President, the Prime Minister, presidents of all parties to help maintain harmony and mutual faith among the people in the region and solve the sensitive issue through dialogue.

Col Kanwar Singh Chaudhary
(retd), former DCC Gen Secy,


The Punjab Assembly’s resolution on the distribution of the Ravi-Beas waters is neither an “assault on federalism” nor will it lead to “anarchy in the country” as is being made out to be by some politicians. It is, certainly, not a “legal gimmick” either to buy time. It is a hard reality and a serious, albeit belated, effort by Punjab to undo the harm inflicted on it over time. There is now a ray of hope for the people of Punjab.

In fact, the Act lays the cornerstone of the revival of federalism in India, the foundation of which was also laid by Punjab in 1970s (The Anandpur Sahib Resolution leading to the Sarkaria Commission and so on). Punjab was compelled to enact the legislation to protect its own interests. Finally, Punjab prepared a roadmap to reach its destination.

Human Biology Dept.,
Punjabi University, Patiala

Duty unto death

Apropos of the news-item Postal employee shot (July 15), Bahadur Singh, a postal employee of Nalagarh, belonged to a rare tribe of public servants for whom duty was paramount. He maintained a true devotion to his duty till his last breath by resisting all attempts of assailants to snatch away the cash bag he was carrying and ultimately he fell to their bullets.

Even in his death, he has set an example for others — duty unto death. Hats off to Bahadur Singh. The Department of Posts should suitably award him posthumously for his unflinching devotion to duty even in the face of death.

Nalagarh (HP)


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