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Rise above politics when it comes to water disputes says Amit Shah


New Delhi, Sep 21: With the Haryana-Punjab water dispute echoing at the Northern Zonal Council meeting chaired by him, Union home minister Amit Shah said all states should rise above politics to resolve the "critical issue" of water shortage.

According to a Haryana government release, home minister Shah also put the larger onus of resolving the dispute on Punjab, describing it as Haryana's "elder brother".

File photo of Amit Shah

"The shortage of water has become a critical issue in almost all states of the country in one way or the other and to resolve it, the states have to work in tandem by rising above the political considerations," the Haryana government statement quoted Shah as saying.

"Being an elder brother, Punjab should adopt a positive approach for resolving the pending water disputes with Haryana," the release added.

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At the meeting, Khattar claimed his state was being denied its full share of Ravi-Beas water by Punjab, which, in turn, asserted that it has no surplus water to share.

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar earlier raised the issue in the NZC meeting here, chaired by Shah and convened to deliberate upon and resolve various inter-state disputes of the northern region, including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal, Rajasthan and Delhi.

Describing Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal as the lifeline of Haryana, Khattar said his state was facing acute water stress as against the demand of 36 million acre-feet, it has only 14.7 MAF of water available with it.

NZC vice chairman and the meet host, Khattar said Haryana, in compliance with the Supreme Court's orders, is giving extra water to Delhi from its own share of Yamuna waters, but Punjab is not delivering his state's full share of the Ravi-Beas waters. "The water supply from the Yamuna has been dwindling over recent years and it is most unfortunate that more than one thousand villages in Haryana and millions of hectares of the state land are bereft of water," a state government statement quoted Khattar as asserting in the NZC meet.

The proceeding of the meet was not open to media.

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, however, asserted that his state has no surplus water, and expressed concern over the water crisis faced by states amid their depleting groundwater and sought cooperation among them for conserving it.

Shared my deep concern with the NZC about the growing water crisis in all States, especially regarding the depletion of groundwater. While Punjab has no surplus river water to share, we must cooperate to improve water-use efficiency to conserve our most precious resource, the Punjab chief minister said in a tweet.

The SYL has been a contentious issue between Punjab and Haryana since long.

Punjab has been maintaining that the quantum of water flowing through the Ravi and Beas rivers has come down considerably, requiring a reassessment of the water volume.

Haryana has been stressing upon the completion of the SYL canal to get its share of river waters and asserting that Punjab should comply with the 2002 and 2004 Supreme Court orders.

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Khattar said the deliberations in meeting would help all states resolve various outstanding issues of Northern Zone and help them build a modern, strong and prosperous India.

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh also raised the issue of drug malady afflicting Punjab and other northern states and sought formulation of a comprehensive national drug policy to tackle the menace.

He also demanded rationalisation of tax rates for fuel in the northern region, saying with the GST, there is the need for greater rationalization of tax rates in the region, especially on excise, petrol and diesel.

He later also broached with the Union home minister the issue of naming Mohali International Airport after "Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh, saying it would go a long way in paying tribute to the legendary martyr and iconic revolutionary in a befitting manner".

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jai Ram Thakur urged for holding regular NZC meets to resolve inter-state issues.

He also sought steps for the rehabilitation of Pong dam oustees and incorporation of Himachal as a "partner State" in the Bhakra Beas Management Board.

Thakur also sought the development of an International Airport at Mandi during the meeting.

Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal too broached up the issue of water shortage in Delhi and said there are a number of other issues, requiring inter-state cooperation to resolve them.

During the meeting, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot urged the Centre to extend the transition period by another five years for switching over to the Goods and Services Tax system.

Gehlot also drew the Council's attention to the problem of locust destroying crops in border districts with Pakistan.

Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik briefly explained about the actual ground position in the state in the wake of the revocation of its special status after the nullification of the Articles 370 and 35-A of the Constitution.

Punjab governor and Chandigarh administrator V P Singh Badnore raised the issue of building an outer ring road around the city and developing a Mass Rapid Transit System for it.

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