SYL Canal Issue: All you Need to Know About the Issue

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court said to the governments of the Punjab and Haryana to first construct the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal (SYL Canal) before conveying their respective points of views and challenges on the displeased issue before the top court. The September 7 is the next date fixed by the Supreme Court for hearing of the case. The top court order came even while activists of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) obstructed the national highway near Ambala and on four other roads in Haryana within their one-day ‘Road Roko Aandolan’ (road blockade protest).

The INLD said that it’s seeking the immediate development of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal in Punjab to bring more water Haryana, and claimed that its protest will continue till 3 pm (today). The media reported that protestors of INLD activists hoodwinked the Haryana Police and central security forces and blocked National Highway One near Ambala. The traffic was also halted near Dabwali in Sirsa region. The road links to Delhi and Amritsar were also obstructed within the protest. However, the ambulances and fire brigades were permitted to pass. The inter-state bus services in both Haryana and Punjab were hanged up till 5 p.m. today as a precautionary solution, leading to hassle to commuters. The security personnel in riot gear, riot-control vehicles, and other equipment were patrolling at the main points in both states to maintain the law and order.

The vehicles are being halted on the Lalru-Chandigarh stretch, Ambala-Shambhu border, Narwana-Dhanauri border, Ratia-Budhlada Road (Jakhal point) in Fatehabad district and Dabwali in Sirsa district. The apex court had on November 11, 2016, announced the Punjab government law (passed in 2004) that it will not divide water with Haryana as “unconstitutional”. It also aimed Punjab to mobilize a central organization to manage the canal works straight away and complete it expeditiously. Right away after the decision, the Punjab government denotified the land, even gave back Haryana’s share back again, stating that it cannot share even a single drop of water to any state. The Haryana government involved the Supreme Court again into it and the court stayed the Punjab Government proceedings.  The Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had said that he wishes that the controversial concern could be solved through dialogue. The state has been keeping that it generally does not have surplus water to talk about with Haryana.

The Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) is a suggested 214-kilometer-long canal to hook up the Sutlej River in Punjab and the Yamuna River in Haryana. On the other hand, both states have frequently created obstacles, which include preventing the project from taking off. The top court of India has been contacted by both and asked to establish river water sharing norms.

The new Captain Amarinder-PM Modi bonhomie

As we all know that there are no everlasting friends or opponents in politics, just eternal interests. The Congress party has already been at restlessness with its Bihar ally, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, friendliness to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Now there appears to be new-found bonhomie between the party’s own chief minister from Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, and Modi. Amarinder called on the PM at New Delhi to get the Centre’s support for resolving the agrarian problems in Punjab and industrial development on Tuesday. He has also asked the PM Modi’s involvement to solve the Rs 31,000-crore debt resulting due to cash credit limit (CCL). On Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue as well, Amarinder’s stand has softened towards the Centre. He had previously resigned as a Lok Sabha MP in November last year following the Supreme Court gave a verdict in the favor of Haryana.

In the run-up to elections, Amarinder had declared that Punjab won’t share its water with Haryana no matter what. On Tuesday, however, he welcomed the Supreme Court’s directive to have discussions with Haryana over the SYL issue. The Captain Amarinder Singh said in a statement, “The central government had also shown its keenness to find a consensual solution to the issue. The issue could be thrashed out by the parties involved by sitting across the table and taking into account all the aspects of the problem.” On the other hand, the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was quick to oppose the CM with former CM Prakash Singh Badal and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal questioning Amarinder’s stand to place “waters of Punjab on the negotiating table”. But the truth is that Amarinder needs PM Modi to put out his government from “inherited” financial meltdown, debt waiver guaranteed to farmers, generating new industry, and most essentially, on the controversial issue of the SYL Canal.

3rd Meeting with PM Modi

Interestingly, this is Captain Amarinder’s third ending up in the PM Modi since formed the government in March this season. In just less than a month, taking over as the CM of the Punjab, Amarinder had met Modi and seeking debt waivers for the Punjab farmers. In April, Captain again called on Modi to seek agreement to sell Punjab’s surplus power to Pakistan or Nepal. In May, Captain hailed Major Leetul Gogoi’s action of by using a Kashmiri as a human shield against stone pelters and the army’s decision to honor him. Amarinder wrote that Gogoi deserved to get a recognized service medal for the achievement.

The Congress Party and Capt Amarinder are on different tracks

In June, the party’s vice-president Rahul Gandhi detailed the government’s decision to usher in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) by having a midnight session of the Parliament’s Central Hall a “gimmick”, stating it had been “rushed through in a half-baked way with a self-promotional spectacle”. Amarinder was all for the GST. As the CM called it a forward-looking tax that will hugely benefit Punjab. Talking about the objections of the party, Captain said that the Congress was only against the event. He later said that the Congress was also against the multiple tax slabs and desired the rate of taxes to be capped at 18%.

On the other hand, when Captain was in the Opposition, he used to adopt frequent digs at former CM Prakash Singh Badal’s visits to former PM Manmohan Singh. In the run-up to the elections, Captain had said that Badal must have realized that Manmohan was a much better PM than Modi and a well-wisher of Punjab as he never let Badal come back unsuccessful and always put something into his “begging bowl”. When out of power, the objection of Congressmen in Punjab was that Dr. Manmohan Singh was “generous” against Badal. Once Amarinder himself had written to Manmohan not to attend the inaugural ceremony of Virasat-e-Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib and Manmohan listened to his advice.

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