Punjab enters incredible era of competitive sacrifice


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, July 27: Punjab has entered an unimaginable era - an era of competitive sacrifice. Every big leader worth his or her salt is coming forward to make some sort of sacrifice-even offering upto the last drop of blood. Punjab has seen its rivers turn red for more than a decade as the people who made sacrifices and those who were treated as sacrificial goats were others as these leaders waited for their time to cash upon those sacrifices. Ironically, the issue on which they go on talking of making sacrifice of all sorts happen to be the same that was raised way back in early eighties but these leaders preferred to inspire others to make sacrifices.

The issue again is the non-issue, that of the construction of the Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal. Fifth time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is going about offering his last drop of blood  asserting “not a drop of water would be allowed to flow out to Rajasthan and Haryana”. What a lie. About 70 per cent of the water from Punjab rivers has been flowing to these states for decades. The irritant between Punjab and Haryana is that amount of water than can fill up only a minor canal.

State Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh has announced that all the Congress MLAs would resign in case the Supreme Court verdict on this issue went against Punjab. This is all the more interesting. The Assembly election in Punjab is due in February 2017. The announcement is likely to be made in November or December. Sacrificing three-four months is not even a sacrifice. This amounts to as much befooling the people as sacrificing the last drop of blood. None is asking for blood to be sacrificed.

The best sacrifice would be that the top leaders should announce that they would not contest election in protest. The people would welcome that the most.

Just forget as to who is the guilty in case of apportionment of waters between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan as that would become repetitive.

In the context of the SYL Canal, there is a common link that binds Parkash Singh Badal, Capt Amarinder Singh and Aam Aadmi Party convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur. That common bond is the 1985 Assembly election that all the three contested on Akali Dal (Longowal) ticket when the party was headed by Surjit Singh Barnala.  This election was  sequel to the Punjab Accord signed between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Akali Dal President Sant Harchand Singh Longowal.

Clause 9 (3) of this Accord states: “The construction of the SYL canal shall continue. The canal shall be completed by 15th August, 1986”.

Badal was among those along with Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Gurcharan Singh Tohra who were opposed to the signing of the Accord and they had made it known to Sant Longowal before he left for Delhi.

Facilitating the Akali Dal government was covert part of this Accord. Barnala knew the weakness of his party leaders.

He laid down the condition of ratification of the Accord for the allotment of ticket. He got the forms printed for that purpose. Badal, Capt Amarinder Singh and Chhotepur signed on the dotted lines supporting the Accord and thus, all three of them committed to the completion of the SYL Canal.

Years later, Capt Amarinder Singh made the amends  with his government enacting Punjab Termination of Agreements Act in 2004. This legislation unilaterally annulled all agreements, awards and accords on Punjab river waters  with the neighbouring states. The issue was too sensitive. It was for this reason that Section 5 was added to this legislation under which the existing flow to Rajasthan and Haryana was guaranteed. Even otherwise, this flow can’t be stopped as Punjab lacks infrastructure to utilise the same and it would flow down to Pakistan. This legislation had been enacted to block the Supreme Court directive to complete construction of the SYL Canal. That purpose was served.

It is this 2004 legislation that is under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court under Presidential Reference. As per the Constitution, the President acts on the advice of the cabinet. The Narendra Modi government can advise the President of India to withdraw this Reference from the Supreme Court. Akali Dal is the alliance partner of the BJP.

It was in order to build pressure that Badal government enacted another legislation to de-notify the land acquired for this canal. It was the Badal government that had issued the first notification in 1978 to acquire land. He had undone his own decision with this legislation.

All the three leaders should come out with some new idea of making sacrifice or announce their retirement from elections as a weapon of protest.


Jagtar Singh


[email protected]

Related Editorials