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SYL verdict: Akalis call emergency meeting, Amarinder resigns from LS seat

Last updated on: November 10, 2016 20:23 IST

Ruling Shiromani Akali Dal on Thursday called an "emergency meeting" after Punjab suffered a serious setback with the Supreme Court holding as "unconstitutional" the 2004 law passed by it to terminate the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal water sharing agreement with neighbouring states.

The party's alliance partner in Punjab, the Bharatiya Janata Party, also toed the SAD line after the apex court's verdict. The BJP said, "Punjab does not have any surplus water to share with any other state."

"An emergency meeting of the Punjab Cabinet to discuss issues pertaining to the SYL canal (water sharing) verdict has been summoned here this evening," Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said.

"Everything will be decided either in the (SAD) Core Committee or the Cabinet meeting," he told reporters declining to make any further comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh resigning from his Lok Sabha seat while his party MLAs resigned en-masse from the state assembly, "in protest against the injustice meted out to the people of the state".

Amarinder, who is also former Punjab Chief Minister, has sent his resignation to the Lok Sabha Speaker, copy of which was released to the media in Chandigarah, and has also sought a personal meeting with the Speaker next week.

The party MLAs have also sent their resignations to the Speaker, Punjab Assembly, and will meet him on Friday morning to personally hand over their papers.

Badal dubbed the resignation of Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh as MP and his party's MLAs decision to follow the suit in the wake of the Supreme Court's verdict as "mere drama".

"His resignation and that of others is a drama. Assembly polls are due in two months. Won't they contest the next election. It is just a drama," he alleged.

The Supreme Court's verdict comes at a crucial juncture with Punjab going to polls early next year. The contentious issue is likely to have political ramifications.

Punjab BJP leader Vineet Joshi said, "We are not against giving water to Haryana or any other state of India, but the issue is Punjab does not have the surplus water to share. We cannot give water at the cost of our farmers."

The apex court judgment termed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 as "unconstitutional" and said Punjab could not have taken a "unilateral" decision to terminate the water sharing agreement with Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Chandigarh.

In his resignation letter, Captain Amarinder said he had decided to quit as member of the 16th Lok Sabha from Amritsar constituency in Punjab with immediate effect "as a mark of protest against the deprivation of the people of my state of the much-needed Sutlej river water."

Describing the SYL judgement by the apex court as a "major blow to the people of Punjab," Amarinder said here he had always fought for their legitimate right on this issue and continues to stand by them at this critical juncture in the state’s journey.

Blaming the Akalis squarely for bringing the people of Punjab to this pitiable situation, where they faced imminent devastation due to acute water scarcity, Amarinder said Badal and his team had "failed" to defend Punjab’s stand in the court, leading to such disastrous consequences for the state.

"The Akalis let down the people of Punjab on this critical issue, selling off their interests to Haryana," said Amarinder, accusing the Badal government of promoting its "vested political interests at the cost of the interests of the state."

Earlier in Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said, "Come what may, we will not allow even a single drop of precious river water of Punjab to go outside the state."

"Only the SAD-BJP government took special care of interests of all sections of the society," he alleged.

"Amarinder Singh had welcomed the then prime minister Indira Gandhi when she came to lay the foundation of the SYL canal at Kapoori," he claimed, adding now, Amarinder is indulging in "theatrics" eyeing next year's assembly polls. 

On AAP, Sukhbir said, "How can AAP be trusted. Its convener Arvind Kejriwal spoke in favour of protecting interests of farmers in Punjab on SYL issue but the moment he returned to Delhi he started singing peans in favour of constructing the SYL canal."

The Akali-BJP government, Amarinder Singh, alleged had gone all out to scuttle every move of the Congress to bring relief to the people of Punjab in the SYL matter.

Amarinder claimed that the then Congress government headed by him had tried to "protect Punjab’s interests through the Punjab Termination of Agreements Bill, 2004".

"The Badals never had the interests of the people of Punjab at heart, as is evident from the way they have handled the issue all these years. The theatrics they are now indulging in, by demanding royalty for water-sharing and asserting that they would not allow a single drop of water to leave Punjab, are not going to save Punjab’s citizens," he said.

"On the contrary, the preposterous idea floated by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to seek royalty from other states using Sutlej water would be even more detrimental to the interests of Punjab, since it was itself using water receiving from neighbouring Himachal Pradesh.

"After helping out Haryana, it seems Badal is now trying to help Himachal Pradesh, by suggesting that it should demand royalty from Punjab," said Amarinder.

Accusing the Akali leader of shamelessly showing dual standards in the matter, the PPCC chief alleged that the Akali government in Punjab was responsible for putting the state on the back foot on the SYL issue.

"Badal had been instrumental in acquiring land for SYL construction in Punjab through a notification dated February 20, 1978, and taking money from Haryana, thus weakening Punjab’s position in the prolonged dispute," he said.

Amarinder said "Badal issued the notification for land acquisition for the SYL on February 20, 1978 vide notification nos: 113/5/SYL and 121/5/SYL under section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act. With this, the process of land acquisition started."

Subsequently, he said, "Badal wrote to Haryana government vide letters..demanding payment of Rs 3 crore more as he had already taken Rs 2 crore for the purpose. This was in follow up to an agreement between him and Devi Lal, the then Chief Minister of Haryana that Haryana will pay Rs 5 crores to Punjab."

IMAGE: Farmers filling the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal with the help of excavators in Saini Majra village in Punjab. Photograph: PTI Photo.
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