Chandigarh, April 13 : Not that presentation of some pragmatic approach was expected from the political parties at their respective conferences on Baisakhi at Talwandi Sabo today but the day ended up in the routine exercise of blame game to which people in this once the most prosperous state are now accustomed to. Sending the other to jail rhetoric now does not even amuse any one. Aam Aadmi Party has the only advantage of both the Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the Congress being confronted with anti-incumbency varying only in degree.
River waters dispute was at the centre of discourse at the Akali and the Congress conferences with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal offering to make any sacrifice, something which the people don’t believe and moreover, it is not much of an issue. The Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal was never to be completed. But then the basic issue is not this canal but that of re-opening of the entire river water issue in the context of more than 65 per cent of waters of the rivers flowing through Punjab having been diverted to Rajasthan and Haryana despite the fact that it is Punjab that provided food security to the country for which the state is now paying a heavy cost.
There is another aspect. Israel has invented techniques for the optimum utilization of scarce water resources and that is a desert country. Rather than fighting over such issues, the government at the centre should have encouraged states like Haryana and Rajasthan lacking in water resources to go in for latest technologies and this applies to Punjab too. It is high time that the state governments concerned seek technology and financial assistance from the centre. What is needed is fresh approach to this issue. This also includes opting for crops suitable to specific areas rather than going in for wheat and paddy by lifting water at heavy cost. Rajasthan Feeder that supplies water to that state from Harike barrage in Punjab is lift-based anti-gravity canal that has caused havoc in its nearby areas in both the states due to heavy seepage. Its water utilization is just about 45 per cent.
Both the Congress and the Akali Dal are trying to whip up the sentiments on this now non-issue as even water courses have disappeared in many parts of Punjab with main dependence being on tube well irrigation. Work on the remodeling of the Bist Doab canal has been undertaken years after it has remained choked due to silt. Villages at the tail end of the canals in Punjab don’t get adequate water.
Both the Congress and the Akali Dal had made it a prestige issue to stage impressive shows at Talwandi Sabo and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal even went to the extent of giving a call to the people to first attend the conference and then pay obeisance at Takht Damdama Sahib that invited ridicule. Manpreet Singh Badal was incharge of mobilizing people for the Congress conference and this was his first major responsibility after joining this party. The effort showed up.
The problem with the Akali conferences of late is lack of response from the people and it is not the number that matters. One fails to understand as to why Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Deputy Chief Minister son Sukhbir Singh Badal should sit together at every conference as if they don’t get time otherwise to interact.
Unlike the Maghi conference at Muktsar in January last, AAP did not make any special efforts to mobilise the people but still the participation was impressive and so was the response. The conference was addressed by state leaders only.
State Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh would have to get out of the routine to meet challenge from AAP. He needs to be more aggressive in tone and tenor.