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Amarinder draws water flak

Chandigarh, Jan. 6: The Inte-rnational Human Rights Org-anisation today accused Pun- jab chief minister Amarinder Singh of sabotaging Punjab’s case of riparian rights over its rivers.

“Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh seems to be entrapped into the whirlwind of ‘sharing of water’ of Punjab’s rivers by the pro-Haryana lobby around him while writing to the Prime Minister, indirectly endorsing the condemned Raj- iv-Longowal Accord by tagging the transfer of Chandigarh with the construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, sabotaging Punjab’s case of riparian rights over its rivers,” the IHRO chairperson, D.S. Gill, said.

The IHRO has been authorised by farmers’ outfits and Opposition parties to pursue Punjab’s case over sharing of its river waters in the Supre- me Court. “If this is the stand of the chief minister of Punjab, then there is no point going to the Supreme Court for restoration of the constitutional and riparian rights of Punjab over its rivers,” Gill added.

“If the recommendations of the all-party meeting to be held this week are not accepted by the government, we will take up the matter separately in the Supreme Court and will also orga-nise a state-wide awareness campaign to highlight the issue,” Gill said.

He asked the Opposition to take strong exception to the chief minister’s letter.

Opposition parties in the state had discussed the issue at an all-party meet convened by the IHRO in Ludhiana in September and recommended that all anti-riparian records inked over the past 25 years were not only null and void but bartered away the rights of the people of Punjab.

The IHRO had apprised Amarinder of the recommendations and also put its viewpoint in writing with special reference to filing a suit in the Supreme Court after it had accepted Haryana’s plea on the construction of the SYL canal.

It also directed the Punjab government to complete the construction of the canal by January 15, 2003.

Amarinder, an IHRO activist revealed, was then quite enthusiastic and had said that the state would take steps to rectify the harm done by the verdict.

“Let us be explicit that Punjab has an absolute ripa- rian right over its three rivers and the neighbouring states of Haryana and Rajasthan, being non-riparian, have no legal right whatsoever over these rivers. Therefore, Punjab has nothing to do with ‘sharing of waters’ with these neighbours, as the sharing can be possible only with co-riparian states,” Gill said.

Gill’s views have been seconded by Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The sharing of the river waters with Haryana is an emotive issue in Punjab, which spurred the Akali to launch the Kapuri morcha in April 1982.

A few months later, in August, morcha chief Harchand Singh Longowal converted the agitation into a dharma yudh, which led to a decade of turmoil in the state.

Amarinder, however, clarified reports regarding his letter to the Prime Minister on the issue. He said in his letter he had clearly spelt out that Punjab was in no position to spare any additional water, and as such could not complete the canal.

The chief minister elabo-rated in the letter that Punjab lay in a deficit basin while Haryana was in a surplus basin. Water could only flow from a surplus basin to a deficit basin and not the other way around, he added.

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