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Badal talks tough on water-sharing pact
Ajay Banerjee & Kirandeep
Tribune News Service

Holiday time in Punjab; cheap foodgrains from Baisakhi, etc

  • Govt offices to close on all religious festivals.
  • Cheap atta ,dal for more people. To start on Baisakhi.
  • Funds for religious places of all religions.
  • Ropar to be divisional headquarters.
  • Elevated road to the Golden Temple will be complete in 18 months
  • Khalsa heritage complex also in 18 months.
  • Martial arts academy to start.
  • Master plan for all blocks of the state. 

Anandpur Sahib, March 3
In what could strain relations with neighbouring states, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has said he will further amend the Act that terminated river waters sharing agreements in 2004. He also made a number of people-friendly announcements a day after being sworn in, at the Hola Mohalla celebrations here today.

“I will scrap Section 5 of the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004”, he said, while speaking to reporters. He said it was a pre-election promise to amend the Section which allows sharing of water with Haryana and Rajasthan to continue. Hence, the Act is only effectively applicable for future agreements and the SYL canal. Asked if the neighbouring states would be feel agitated, Badal shot , saying: “We are the riparian state and that is what I have been saying for the past so many years.”

Our party will bring in a law to scarp Section 5, he said when asked if any amendment would be introduced. The law could be introduced in the next session of the Vidhan Sabha, he said. A partial modification in the Section would not help our cause. Also, by inserting this Section, the previous regime had almost justified the earlier agreements which were based against the principles of riparian rights, Badal said.

He said the Eradi tribunal on sharing of waters did not come into the picture on this issue. It may be mentioned that Punjab had argued before the tribunal that reality had undergone a sea change since the agreement was orginally signed.

In 1981, the total amount of water available in the river basins was assumed to be 17.17 million acre feet annually. But now, as per the flow series of 1981-2002, it had dropped to 14.37 million acre feet. Therefore, the diversion of waters would have a“permanent adverse impact” on the state’s irrigation.

The Haryana Congress had yesterday chided former Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala, asking him to get more water from his friend Badal.

Earlier, at his first public speech after taking over as the Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal made a slew of announcements to appease almost all sections of society at a political conference of his party at Hola Mohalla here today.

Some of the announcements were purely populist in nature. However, he reiterated his commitment to infrastructure development.

Speaking in front of a massive crowd at the historic gurdwara, Badal vacillated between “political mode” and the “development mode”. He said government employees would get holidays on religious festivals that were discontinued by the previous regime led by Amarinder Singh.

The holidays will be restored as “we are a secular party”, he added, probably forgetting that the Fifth Pay Commission had reduced the number of holidays for government employees.

All religious institutions like temples, gurdwaras, churches and mosques will be allowed a grant from the state treasury. He said the matter would be placed before the Cabinet and special laws would be enacted to allow financial assistance to religious places.

Notably, he announced that the cheap atta and dal promised by his party would be started from Baisakhi, April 13. It would not be restricted to the below poverty line (BPL) families as planned earlier. A new scheme would be brought in to include more families so as to widen the scope of providing atta at Rs 4 per kg and dal at Rs 20 per kg.

Carrying on in the same please-people mode, Badal announced that Ropar would be made the divisional headquarters. This was a pre-poll promise made by Badal to residents of Ropar who were up in arms after Mohali was upgraded as a district and carved out of Ropar.

Badal then turned to the “development mode” as he reiterated his commitment to infrastructure development and announced that a master plan would be made for all blocks of the state which would lay down provisions for services and development of roads and bridges.

The elevated road connecting the Golden Temple with the main road would completed within 18 months. The foundation stone had been laid by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Khalsa heritage complex would also be completed within 18 months and the martial arts academy would also be started. Both projects located here were started during the previous SAD-BJP regime to mark the tercentenary of the Khalsa.

On rural debts, he said farmers were collectively under a debt of Rs 24,000 crore.

Later, speaking to reporters, he said the bureaucracy in the state stood politicised and he repeated that only clear cases of corruption would face the law.

On allocation of portfolios, Badal said it would take two more days.

Among other Akali leaders who addressed the gathering were Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Kanwaljit Singh, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Prem Singh Chandumajra and Tota Singh. 

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