Chandigarh, Nov 15: Escalating the political and legal war over water sharing, the Punjab cabinet on Tuesday de-notified the land acquired for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal nearly four decades back.
"The Punjab Council of Ministers today (Tuesday) decided in public interest that the land acquired for SYL Canal Project, which is presently vested in the Punjab government, free from all encumbrances, stands de-notified with immediate effect and shall forthwith vest in the original land owners or their lineal descendants/legal representatives, free of cost," said the decision of the cabinet, taken at a meeting here.
"The decision comes into immediate effect and necessary orders are being passed. The meeting was presided over by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal," said Punjab Chief Minister's Advisor on National Affairs and Media Harcharan Bains.
The move comes as the latest in the political and legal war over water sharing between Punjab and Haryana through the SYL canal, which has remained at the centre of controversy for four decades without a drop of water actually flowing in the canal, following last week's verdict by the Supreme Court holding the abrogation of water agreement by Punjab in 2004 was illegal.
The Punjab government, through Chief Minister Badal, made it clear that Punjab will not spare even a drop of water even if the Supreme Court decides the case against it.
In March this year, the Punjab assembly had "unanimously" passed a bill to return the land acquired for the construction of the SYL canal.
Within hours, the Haryana assembly, passed a "unanimous resolution" condemning the passage of the Bill by the Punjab Assembly. It had described the move as "unilateral, unconstitutional and denying the authority of the Supreme Court."
Badal had introduced 'The Punjab Satluj Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill, 2016' to de-notify the land acquired for construction of the canal, and return 3,928 acres of land free of cost to the original landowners. The land was acquired nearly four decades ago.
Haryana claims to be a water deficit state and has stated that it has been deprived of more than half of its legitimate share of 3.50 MAF in surplus Ravi-Beas water, which has resulted in reduction in agriculture production.
The Supreme Court had earlier accepted its petition for early hearing on the issue of the SYL canal, on which the Presidential Reference is pending for the past 11 years.
The Congress government in Punjab had, in 2004, scrapped the water sharing agreements with neighbouring states and had refused to give any water to other states, especially Haryana. The presidential reference was sought after this move by Punjab which nullified all agreements on water sharing. The Punjab assembly, in 2004, passed the controversial 'Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Bill' on water sharing with other states.
The SYL Canal, that was to link two major rivers (Sutlej and Yamuna) in Punjab and Haryana, was planned and major portions of it were even completed in the 1990s at a cost of over Rs 750 crore at that time, is entangled in a political and legal quagmire with Punjab and Haryana unwilling to give up their respective stands.