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Congress Seeks Fresh Tribunal on SYL Issue; Another Step Detrimental to Interests of Punjab

November 18, 2016 | By

Chandigarh: The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) led by state chief Capt. Amarinder Singh yesterday demanded fresh tribunal on controversial Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal issue. Demanding tribunal with regard to Punjab river water issue with regard to non-riparian states of Haryana, Rajasthan or Delhi is highly detrimental to the interests and riparian rights of the state of Punjab.

Capt. Amarinder Singh addressing media persons

Capt. Amarinder Singh addressing media persons

First have a look at the press release issued by the Congress party:

Warning of serious consequences of failure to address the matter on priority, the Punjab Congress, led by Captain Amarinder Singh, has urged the President of India to direct the central government to consider the ground realities and the availability of water in the state before taking any action on the advice of the Supreme Court on the SYL issue.

All Punjab Congress MLAs, along with several central party leaders, on Thursday evening met President Pranab Mukherjee, under the leadership of Captain Amarinder, to seek his urgent intervention in the SYL matter. The party leaders warned of the possible outbreak of violence in the state, where the situation was extremely fluid and tense following the SC verdict on the subject.

If the people of Punjab don’t get water to drink there is bound to be tension, which could scale up into violence, Captain Amarinder later told media persons, charging the Badal government in Punjab with further inflaming passions and aggravating the situation with its irresponsible actions, including the passing of the two illogical resolutions in the state assembly.

Captain Amarinder said the Badal government was befooling the people by resorting to cheap tactics on the SYL issue. He dismissed as totally inconsequential and lacking in legality the resolutions passed by the Akalis in the special session of the state Assembly on Wednesday, saying these resolutions could easily have been passed through an administrative order, without the need to enact the drama of a special session.

Describing the special session as an eyewash, Captain Amarinder said if the Badal government was serious about resolving the SYL issue it should have brought in a proper Bill in the House. However, being a money bill, such a legislation would need prior consent of the Governor, which the Akalis could not have hoped to receive, he added, pointing out that the resolutions were of no consequence and would not be of any use in resolving the SYL matter.
Responding to questions, Captain Amarinder said the resolutions of the Akalis on the SYL issue had no legal or constitutional standing and were clearly aimed at garnering political mileage for the ruling combine.

Asked about Arvind Kejriwal’s continued silence on the SC judgement on SYL, Captain Amarinder reiterated his demand for the AAP leader to come out with a clear and categorical stand on the issue. Pointing out that his silence reflected his desire to become the chief minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder said, “If he wants to become the chief minister of Punjab, which he seems to be eyeing, he must spell out whether or not he stands with the people of the state in this hour of dire need.”

Earlier, Punjab Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Charanjit Singh Channi told the President at the meeting that the resolutions passed by the Akalis in the Assembly on Wednesday were totally unconstitutional and aimed at inflaming passions in the state.

In a memorandum to the President, the party leaders cited the acute water scarcity faced by Punjab to urge the President not to accept the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s verdict on the SYL matter, saying the court’s conclusions “are neither borne out of the country’s Constitution nor are these based fully on facts and changed ground realities.”
The Congress delegation pointed out to the President that the SC verdict on SYL was not based on a consideration of the current realities in Punjab. Even internationally acclaimed riparian and basin principles on sharing of inter-state waters, have not been recognized, they said in the memorandum, which provide a detailed historical perspective to apprise the President of the facts on law and ground realities.

The memorandum noted that the river water availability had been progressively declining, and the availability of Ravi Beas water, estimated to be 14.37 MAF in 2002, had since come down to 13 MAF, as a result of melting glaciers. The agreement on water sharing, reached between the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan in December 1981, did not reflect upon the ground situation and was terminated through the Act of 2004 because “Punjab does not have surplus water.”

The memorandum further pointed out that Punjab’s total water demand, currently over 50 MAF, is continuously rising with changing climate, soil conditions, as well as agricultural, industrial and domestic (drinking water) requirements. With Punjab’s total river allocation only 14.33 MAF – a mere 40 per cent of the total estimated river water of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, only a quarter of its total demand is met through the river water, causing unbearable stress on ground water, it noted, pointing out that the Government of India itself had declared three-fourth of the state’s blocks and areas as Dark Zone, clearly admitting the inadequacy of water in Punjab. But the GoI has, ironically, hesitated to apprise the Hon’ble Supreme Court that Punjab does not have surplus water, said the memorandum, describing it as “unfair and unjust, and much against the spirit of the Constitution of India.”

The Congress leaders, through their memorandum, also pointed out that the states of Haryana and Rajasthan are neither riparian nor basin states, “yet they have continued to use these waters even after the enactment of the Punjab Termination of Agreements act 2004, which protects the current usage of these States under section 5 thereof. This, said the memorandum, had resulting in suffering for Punjab and its “dynamic and hard working farmers who have ensured and provided for the National Food Security for the last five decades since 1966.”

The memorandum dismissed Haryana’s claim for a share in Ravi Beas river water “because it was once a part of Punjab”, terming it as “unreasonable and illogical” and, “if sustained, should cause them loss of 60 per cent of water of Yamuna and other rivers as this would then be needed to be given to Punjab statutorily as its share subsequent to reorganization of the State, and division of its assets as per the existing Punjab Reorganization Act 1966, vires of which are against the Constitution.

The Congress leaders pointed out that inter-state distribution of water can be done only under Article 262 of the Constitution, read with Entry 56 of the Union List. They added that merely because Haryana has been getting and utilizing the water of the three rivers of Sutlej, Ravi and Beas, which nowhere pass through or touch that state, as a matter of sufferance of Punjab, does not legally devolve any right upon them.

If diversion of Ravi Beas water is allowed, completely ignoring the present Constitutional provisions, nearly one million acres of land would be rendered dry and barren and over 200,000 farmers and equal number of land less labour would lose their livelihood, said the memorandum, adding that Punjab can ill-afford to loose its hard earned peace and communal harmony in the state.

In the context of this factual position, the Punjab Congress urged the President to initiate steps to rectify the position, allowing Punjab to use its water to meet its requirements. The party leaders said the injustice to Punjab was deliberate and requested the President to direct the Government of India not to proceed with any further action for construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal.

Earlier Shiromani Akali Dal had Accepted Tribunal:

Earlier the Shiromani Akali Dal, now lead by Badal dynasty, had accepted the formation of a tribunal on Punjab river waters under Rajiv-Longowal Accord of 1985.

Punjab Govt.’s Lawyers Also Favoured Formation of New Tribunal:

On November 10, 2016 when the Supreme Court of India (SCI) passed a verdict against the state of Punjab in President of India’s reference against Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004; lawyers of the Punjab government also advocated formation of fresh tribunal to take note of decreased flow of Punjab’s river waters and ground water crisis in Punjab.


Punjab’s rivers (Ravi, Beas and Satluj) does not pass through Rajasthan, Delhi or Haryana thus these states are non-riparian with regard to Punjab’s rivers. As per internationally accepted Riparian Rule, Indian Constitution and Indian Law (Inter-State River Water Disputes Act) no legitimate conflict with regard to distribution of Punjab’s river water could arise between Punjab and Rajashtan, Delhi or Haryana.

Under Inter-State River Water Disputes Act Tribunals are formed to decided disputes regarding distribution of waters of ‘inter-state rivers’.

Genuinely no tribunal could be formed to distribute Punjab’s river water amongst Punjab and Rajashtan, Delhi and/or Haryana as Ravi, Beas or Satluj does not pass through Rajashtan, Delhi or Haryana.

Accepting tribunal leads to an inference that there was some dispute over distribution of river water whereas the legal and constitutional position is that no genuine dispute regarding distribution of a river water could arise between a riparian and non-riparian state.

For More Clarity on this Issue – Watch this video:

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Watch Full Interview for a Deeper Understanding on Present Situation of Punjab’s River Water Issue:

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