SYL (Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal) or SARYU is a 214-kilometer (133 mi) long proposed canal in India which connects the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers. This canal was proposed due to river water sharing from Punjab to Haryana state. However, this proposal has not completed till yet due to various obstacles and this matter was referred to the Supreme Court of India.
History of SYL
This issue has been created from the creation of the state of Haryana. After the partition, an issue arose regarding water sharing between India & Pakistan from the rivers of Punjab (Indus, Chenab, Jhelum, Beas, Ravi & Sutlej) which are undivided. To settle this dispute Indus Water Treaty in 1960 was signed by the two countries in which it was allowed that both the contenders will be able to use the water of three rivers unrestrictedly. The eastern rivers, i.e. Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi are allocated to India. The water of these rivers was shared between Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab & Delhi. In 1966, Punjab was reorganized & Haryana was created out of it. Moreover, Haryana was eligible to get the share of Punjab river water as a successor state. For this purpose, Yamuna river of Punjab which is undivided & now flows only in Haryana. That is why it has created a dispute between Punjab & Haryana & Indira Gandhi has intervened for the purpose dividing the water of these three rivers between Punjab & Haryana equally.
In 1979, Haryana approached to the Supreme Court for the purpose of implementing this allocation whereas Punjab filed a civil suit a few months later in the apex court challenging Haryana. These lawsuits have started to slew legal battles which are still running. The major issue between these two states is regarding the construction of Sutlej-Yamuna Canal which will carry water Punjab’s rivers to Haryana. The canal construction was stopped in 1990 when militants gunned down not only a number of workers but also the superintending engineer and the chief engineer.
In 2002, the Supreme Court had issued a directive for the purpose of completing the construction part of Canal from Punjab side. At that time, Captain Amarinder Singh former Chief Minister of Punjab has initiated in the Termination of Waters Agreement Act, 2004. This termination takes place due to Punjab was already sharing water with Haryana, and Rajasthan. So, Punjab remained with limited water which he required for his own state. Due to taking this action the captain became famous as ‘the Saviour of Punjab’s Waters.’
SYL Canal Dispute
This dispute has taken place when Punjab was reorganized & a new state called Haryana was created. The river water sharing became the major issue of contention between these two states due to this, in 1976 the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has intervened in this matter & it was decided that both the state will receive an equal amount of water, i.e. 3.5 million acre-feet. This canal was started to build between Sutlej and Yamuna rivers to provide the water to the farmers of Haryana from Punjab side. At that time Darbara Singh was the chief minister of Punjab.
Central Government has issued the notification for the purpose of building Sutlej-Yamuna link canal. In this progression Haryana has constructed the 90 per cent of the canal, however, 10 per cent of this construction was to be done by Punjab, but Punjab was not agreed for SYL construction. Supreme Court & Central Government has given pressure to Punjab in this direction but Punjab was against to this construction & from here SYL canal dispute aroused.
Haryana has constructed 90 per cent of SYL canal & 10 percent was the portion which was Punjab has to complete. However, Punjab was not ready for the construction of SYL. The Supreme Court has intervened in this matter & directed the Punjab government to complete the construction. Central government and Haryana also created pressure on Punjab but Punjab was not ready to begin the construction as it was against to the interests of Punjab. Punjab tried to define the Government that they have a huge cultivation area so they have a high need as compared to Haryana.
Ironies in the History Related To Canal
In 1978 acquisition of land for the construction of canal began, at that time Parkash Singh Badal was the Chief Minister of Punjab. In 1981, Akalis were the part of the tripartite agreement which was taken place between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan and also Rajiv-Longowal Accord was signed in 1995 moreover, Capt Amarinder Singh, who has initiated termination of agreements, in 1982 & hailed the foundation stone in ceremony of the canal.
On the other hand Prof Kaptan Singh Solanki, the common governor of Punjab and Haryana initially speaking in the favour of Punjab in the state Assembly but within a week he has changed his side & started to take stand in the favour of Haryana, which was quite confusing & also highly embarrassing attitude of a Governor of two states. Moreover, he has not approved Punjab’s Bill till yet and is likely to refer it to the President. The water issue has created high tension in both the states. The jats have shown their anxieties so this issue should need serious consideration of Government.
Effect of SYL Disagreement on Political Party
The fight between Punjab & Haryana regarding SYL canal has again come to the limelight & Supreme Court has restarted the hearings regarding the validity of Punjab Termination of Agreements Act. As Punjab elections are going to arrive in less than a year time, SYL Canal issue has enough potential to change the political reaction of the state. The development of SYL Canal will give a positive political advantage to the Congress party because Chief, Capt. Amarinder Singh has passed this Act during his tenure as chief minister. In the contrary, Aam Aadmi Party has emerged as a major challenger of Congress & also the ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance. All these things have created consequences due to created violent & complicated history.
The Current Situation
Punjab has terminated the SYL construction under Termination of Waters Agreement Act, 2004 which was referred to the Supreme Court by the Indian President in the same year.
Earlier in this year, Supreme Court has taken the decision to take this matter in Presidential reference as this sensitive issue of water has created violence and agitations between the two states. Moreover, it can impact the political parties for the Assembly elections which are due in less than a year in Punjab. As in 2004, Punjab Termination of Agreements Act which has individually canceled all the agreements from the Punjab side for the purpose of sharing the water of Satluj, Ravi & Beas Rivers with its neighboring state. Due to this the stand taken by Centre in the Apex Court was sided by Haryana & opposed to the Punjab legislation. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has opposed this decision. Moreover, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had been repeatedly saying that Punjab did not have a drop of water spare and state Congress Chief Capt Amarinder Singh also had been opposing tooth and nail for the purpose of flow of any water to Haryana. In 2004, Termination of Waters Agreement was hailed by Capt Amarinder Singh, through the support of Akalis.
To hit the final nail in the coffin of SYL, Badal Government has passed the Punjab Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal Land Bill in 2016. By this bill, 5,376 acres land which was acquired by the SYL canal was provided to the landowners & this bill assisted to stop any further construction towards SYL canal. About 90 per cent of the canal construction was completed which has cost over 700 crore amount from the public side. The construction of SYL was one of the sensitive issue between these two states which has created aggressiveness in the mind of Sikhs & also one of the instances of discrimination towards Punjab people. The project’s chief engineer and superintending engineer were also killed by militants. Moreover, 35 laborers who were working on this site were massacred leading for the purpose of stopping the construction, in 1990 & large portions of the unused constructed SYL canal has been extensively damaged.
Punjab & SYL
The construction of SYL Canal has the power to create a drastic situation in Punjab. As farming is the main occupation of this state people. Moreover, Punjab has huge cultivation area. The water of Punjab is not sufficient for Punjab itself & sharing of water can create a situation of the water crisis in the state. To overcome this issue Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is forcing the Government for the purpose of passing ‘Punjab Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal land (transfer of proprietary right) Bill’ as an objective to transfer the land to the landowners who have proprietary rights, from whom the land was acquired for the construction of SYL by the state government. Moreover, Badal said that this Bill needs to be taken into priority as Punjab had not any surplus waters to share with other states. Punjab already has great cultivating area & it is known for agriculture. So, the water of Punjab is not sufficient for its own state then how could it able to share water with its neighboring states. He also said that there is already a water crisis existing in Punjab and if it shares the water with other states then it will create a dangerous situation for the farmers as well as for the state itself. He also said that already Punjab is sharing water with Pakistan, Rajasthan & Haryana but not Punjab is not in the situation to share more water.
Badal said that SYL CAN never constructed rather than Government needs to return back the land free of cost to the landowners which was acquired from the farmers for the purpose of SYL construction which is around 3,928 acres. This issue was adopted in assembly for fifteen minutes. However, the opposition Congress party leader Charanjit Singh Channi has opposed this bill & has been backed it. The political parties are only aware of their own profit rather than thinking about the people of India. For the construction of SYL canal, a huge amount of expenditure has taken place & delay in the action regarding this issue will maximize the expenditure, which is worthless.
The resolution of this issue has moved by Agriculture Minister OP Dhankar who requested the Union Government for the purpose of withdraw this illegal and unconstitutional action (Punjab Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal land Bill). As per Agriculture Minister OP Dhankar, Haryana is a water deficit state and availability of water in Haryana is approx. 61 percent less than the total requirement. However, Akali Dal is saying that they are already sharing water with Haryana with Bhakra Dam through two canals & also sharing water with Rajasthan through Indira Canal. That is why Punjab is already left with less water & the water need in Punjab is higher than Haryana. Akali Dal is saying that the Yamuna is the part of Punjab whereas Haryana claims that they have also the equal share in Sutlej River. However, as per Akali Dal, Punjab has more cultivation land as compared to Haryana & if Punjab shares a single drop of water with another state then it will be an injustice with Punjab itself.
Reaction of Political Parties Regarding SYL Canal
SAD & BJP is against to this construction. Earlier Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said regarding the SYL canal dispute that he was against of this construction as Punjab has not sufficient water to its own state, then how could it share the water with Haryana. But now he is in favour of Haryana & in favour of SYL canal construction & deceived the Punjab farmers, which is confusing & surprising reaction. Whereas, Haryana’s Irrigation Minister Om Prakash Dhankar is asking Government to construct a separate canal from Nangal Nam in Punjab to the Capital which shows that political parties are trying to misuse Punjab for their personal benefit. There is a great need to give consideration on this matter from Central government to resolve the issue between these two states rather than political parties focus on their own profit & fight with each other due to election perspective.
AAP Party & Sangat Darshan
On the arrival of AAP party leader in Sangat Darshan which was held in Mangarh village, near Dasuya Dy. CM, Sukhbir Singh Badal said that Kejriwal needs to give the consideration upon the promises he has done with Delhi youth during the time of elections. Rather than trying to do fake promises with Punjab for his own welfare. Dr. Cheema said that Punjab Government is already concerned for Punjab people & are taking lots of steps for the progression of the state. So, it is better that Kejriwal gives his consideration to Delhi, rather than interfering in the matter of Punjab. Moreover, he said that Kejriwal should go & indulge in his own course. He also said that in the sensitive issues the State & Union should work with each other, as per the federal structure to maintain peace in the country, but it is worthless to advise in the case of AAP party, as they are only want to come in lime light & only like to do false promise for elections.
SYL Canal & Punjab Government
The main issues which Punjab is facing are the lack of the political deal, as every political party is only want to work for their own welfare rather than taking consideration upon Punjab farmers. Punjab is facing water issue in its own state still Central Government is forcing Punjab for the purpose of water sharing. Central Government has given seven deadlines to Punjab for the completion of the project in 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991 & 2003. In 2003 seventh deadline was given by Central Government for the construction of the canal project but like the previous 6 deadlines, this was also ignored by the state. So, Central officials seem to intervene in this expanded Punjab-Haryana dispute. To remove this dispute a meeting was held with all major political parties in Haryana. In this meeting, the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has refused to commit any Central intervention. However, Haryana Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala argued that the failure of this proposal will cost approx. Rs.1,000 crore a year to Haryana. But the will power of Punjab Government made it possible to establish “Punjab Termination of Agreement Act 2004”. Additionally, in 2016, Punjab assembly has passed a bill for returning the land to the landowners at a free cost & this bill was passed by Supreme Court too.