Rajasthan owes Punjab billions of rupees
Chandigarh, January 4
Though a meeting held on January 29,1955, under the chairmanship of then Union Minister for Irrigation and Power Gulzari Lal Nanda, had decided the allocation of surplus Ravi-Beas waters, it did not decide about the cost of water to be paid by the non-riparian state of Rajasthan to Punjab.
Rivers water expert Pritam Singh Kumedan, who is in possession of documents marked secret about the 1955 meeting, says that Rajasthan has so far received more than 40 crore million acre feet (MAF) of Ravi-Beas waters from Punjab since the formal commissioning of Rajasthan canal in 1966, but never paid a penny to Punjab so far.
“The actual money Rajasthan owes to Punjab now runs into thousands of crores,” asserts Kumedan holding that the 1955 meeting only decided about the share of surplus Ravi-Beas waters.
The allocation of the cost of water, including the cost of storage and other works were to be taken up separately. The conference had decided the share of Punjab to be 5.90 MAF, Kashmir 0.65 MAF, Rajasthan 8 MAF and PEPSU 1.30 MAF.
The reason why the actual cost of storage and supply of water was not subsequently worked out was because when the actual flow of water in Rajasthan canal started, Punjab and Haryana got bogged down in the controversy over the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.
“I have written a letter to the Punjab Chief Minister to take up the matter with the government of Rajasthan. I have supported my letter by copies and documents related to the inter-state conference held under the chairmanship of Nanda and also the subsequent notification of the Union Ministry of Irrigation and Power,” adds Kumedan.
Kumedan was also the consultant/adviser to the Punjab government before the Eradi Tribunal as well as on all river water disputes.
He maintains that it all started because of the dispute between India and Pakistan over water.
“At the time of Partition, there was ‘standstill agreement’ between two Punjabs - East and West - for maintaining pre-Partition allocation of water for Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC) and Dipalpur canal serving Pakistan. It was valid until March 31,1948.
“Since Pakistan had failed to renegotiate or renew the agreement, East Punjab stopped supply of water to these canals on April 1,1948, leading to hue and cry in West Punjab. The result was that water supply to Lahore was cut off. On May 4, 1948, a new agreement was signed in which Pakistan agreed to pay for water it received through these two canals.
“Some days later, Pakistan started constructing a diversion channel to bypass Ferozepore headworks, but stopped when East Punjab threatened to cut supplies. Apprehending that Pakistan may be constant threat to Ferozepore headworks, East Punjab started constructing a barrage at Harike. Work was completed in 1952.
“While approving the Harike Barrage, the union government had approved a provision for Rajasthan canal with a capacity of 18,500 cusecs. The length of the canal was fixed at 426 miles. East Punjab had also formulated a plan for diverting about 20,000 cusecs of Chenab water to Ravi by constructing a diversion channel at Murhu.
“Since water was a sensitive issue between India and Pakistan, India decided to allocate surplus Ravi-Beas waters to both riparian and non-riparian states before a World Bank team came to India to assess the surplus waters that Pakistan wanted. India was keen to complete the entire process before the team could arrive. It was in this light that the conference was held where allocation of 8 MAF to Rajasthan was made,” says Kumedan.