Responding to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s call for marathon discussions to resolve the SYL issue, Punjab and Haryana on Friday agreed to try and find a collective solution to the dispute through dialogue.The Home Minister’s plea came after Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, hosting the 28th meeting of the Northern Zonal Council (NZC) here, pushed for consensual resolution of the SYL dispute, while calling for coordination by the concerned states with the Government of India to find a feasible solution for optimal utilization of river waters based on internationally accepted riparian principles.Agreeing to Captain Amarinder’s suggestion of talks to resolve the issue, the Home Minister, while chairing the meeting, said efforts should first be made to find a solution through marathon meetings, failing which the matter should be left to the courts to decide. He suggested that the chief ministers and chief secretaries of both the states should sit and discuss the issue threadbare in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. The Punjab Chief Minister suggested the Union Water Resource Ministry convene a meeting of the CMs and CSs at the earliest to take it forward.Captain Amarinder pointed out that with an estimated 10 lakh acres of southern Punjab likely to go dry following the construction of the SYL, the region, which had seen the emergence of Naxalism, could become the hotbed of terrorism, triggering a national problem. Though Haryana had less land, it had been given more water at the time of Punjab’s reorganization, said Captain Amarinder, pointing out that Punjab did not get any share of the Yamuna water.
Earlier, in his official address, Captain Amarinder reiterated his demand for re-assessment and re-determination of the availability of surface waters in the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers. Pointing out that Punjab was suffering an ecological crisis because of depletion of ground water, he urged the central government to take expert advice on how to make reliable estimates of future flows in these rivers. The Punjab chief minister also sought the Centre’s help in supplementing the state’s efforts to check cross-border smuggling of drugs, which his government was committed to eliminating.Referring to the border status of Punjab, Captain Amarinder once again reiterated his demand for central government concessions, on the lines of the fiscal and industrial concessions being given to Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand, in order to compensate the state for the financial and economic loss already suffered by it. This, he said, was necessary to provide a level playing field to Punjab.Referring to the rampant drug menace in Punjab, the Chief Minister noted that since the border was manned by central security forces, the Union Home Minister, who was presiding over the meeting, should order strict vigil on the border to check cross-border smuggling of drugs. Underlining the need to combat the drug problem in a systematic and organized manner, he stressed the importance of inter-state coordination and urged the neighbouring states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir to make focused efforts for the destruction of illegal cultivation of poppy and cannabis.
The Chief Minister also called for effective plugging of pilferage of narcotic substances from areas where they are being cultivated legally for pharmaceutical and related purposes. Sharing of Information and initiating criminal action against the smugglers involved in this nefarious trade should be promoted, he stressed, while calling for shifting of poppy husk vends located in Rajasthan along the border villages of Punjab.Lamenting the growing trend of centralisation of authority, the Chief Minister called for greater operational freedom to states, cutting across party lines, in choosing and financing their developmental properties, since state governments “are in a much better position to understand, address and solve the problems of their people, at the cutting edge. Moreover, they are directly answerable to the people for ensuring a better quality of life.” In this context, he cited the need for states to have more funds for their primary development needs and reiterated his demand for an increase, to at least 50%, in the percentage of devolution of central funds to the states.The Chief Minister took the opportunity to express concern at the dilution, by the Chandigarh Administration, of the 60:40 ratio decided by the Government of India, at the time of reorganisation of Punjab, in the matter of all government posts in the departments of the Union Territory of India between Punjab and Haryana. He urged the Union Home Minister to direct the Chandigarh Administration to ensure strict compliance with the 60:40 principle in matters of recruitment in all departments/categories of employees.
Reiterating the importance of the stalled Shahpur Kandi dam project in the interest of the nation as well as the people of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir, which had put a stop to the construction work in 2014, Captain Amarinder requested the J&K chief minister to personally look into the matter and ratify the agreement for the resumption of construction work.The Punjab Chief Minister also sought his Himachal Pradesh counterpart’s intervention to put an immediate stop to discharge of effluents into river Sutlej by industries/towns in Himachal Pradesh through various rivulets. Pointing out that the Sutlej river water is used for drinking purposes in many parts of Punjab, Captain Amarinder said his government had initiated an ambitious project for cleaning of river waters and would ensure that all the waste water being discharged into Punjab rivers is treated before discharged, within the next three years.Besides Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, others who attended the meeting included V.P. Singh Badnore, Governor of Punjab and Administrator, U.T., Chandigarh; Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Minister of Haryana; Anil Baijal, Lt. Governor of Delhi; Anil Madhav Dave, Delhi Environment Minister; Dr Nirmal Kumar Singh, Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir; Thakur Kaul Singh Health & Family Welfare Minister of Himachal Pradesh; and Dr Ram Pratap, Minister for Water Resources, Rajasthan.