The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Canal row

Chandigarh, Jan. 8: Shiromani Akali Dal president Parkash Singh Badal today accused Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh of “an unpardonable moral and political hypocrisy” on the construction of the controversial Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, reports our special correspondent.

Badal said his party decided to stay away from today’s dishonest exercise of the so-called all-party meet as it “could not be a party to this fraud against the people of Punjab”.

“Amarinder has neither the moral courage nor the political will required to oppose Indira Gandhi’s allocation of 3.5 million acre-feet of river waters to Haryana in 1976, which is the only basis on which the SYL curse is based,” he said.

The meeting passed a resolution calling for a special Assembly session on the controversy.

Apart from members of the Cabinet, 60 people attended today’s meeting. They included Prem Singh Chandumajra of the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, the CPM’s Balwant Singh, Simranjit Singh Mann of the Akali Dal (Mann) and Satnam Singh Kainth of the Bahujan Samaj Morcha among others.

The Akali chief expressed surprise why the chief minister had chosen to sleep through the entire tenure of his 10 months without filing a review petition in the Supreme Court.

“There is a deep-rooted conspiracy behind the unbelievable delay on the part of the chief minister in filing a review petition against the apex court deadline of January 15 on the SYL issue. This looks quite a deliberate act aimed at saving himself from the embarrassment of having to oppose Indira Gandhi’s arbitrary, dictatorial and unjust decision,” he said.

Badal said that rather than speaking against the wrongs done by his party, Amarinder will barter away the interests of his state just to save his position in the government. “This is a typical Congress response, patented by Amarinder’s predecessors in his present party,” Badal alleged.

The Akali leader asked Amarinder to explain to the people of Punjab why he had wasted these 10 months without filing a petition in the Supreme Court even when the issue was a matter of life and death for the state’s future. “This should have been his very first action after assuming office, especially when the Supreme Court’s orders had been passed in January last year. He is guilty of a criminal offence with wilful neglect of this vital issue and is the real culprit of the present crisis,” Badal said.

Badal also wondered why the decision to consult other political parties on this subject which concerned all Punjabis was taken when there was hardly any time left to seek quick relief against the apex court’s order.

“The all-party meeting should have been held as a top priority item on the government’s agenda. Consultations should have begun in the right earnest in February last year. But the chief minister remained busy with all kinds of controversial pursuits and had no time for the problems of the state. It is shocking that even the invitation for the all-party meet was delivered to the SAD office only yesterday noon.”

Badal asked Amarinder to come clean on the stand of his party and his government on Indira’s action of March 2, 1976, under which she had allocated 3.5 MAF of Punjab’s river waters to Haryana, in disregard to the nationally and internationally accepted riparian principle.

“This award is at the root of the whole problem. The Punjab Congress leaders cannot oppose the construction of the SYL canal without openly condemning Indira Gandhi’s discriminatory action. If this decision is removed from the records, the SYL automatically becomes irrelevant. They also must tender an apology to the people of Punjab for having invited Indira Gandhi to start the digging of the canal at Kapuri with a silver spade offered to her by Punjab Congress leaders in 1982. This Congress’ double-speak and hypocrisy cannot fool the people. Amarinder cannot go on extolling Indira Gandhi and yet oppose the SYL canal which is the progeny of her sin,” Badal said.

The former Punjab chief minister warned of launching a stir against the canal’s construction. “When the need arises, we would not desist from launching a mass movement to stop the digging of the canal. The SAD has always been the custodian of the interests of the people of the state and will uphold its traditions of peaceful struggle to safeguard the waters of Punjab rivers for its farmers,” Badal said.

Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, speaking at the 28th National Women Sports Festival at Ambala today, said the Supreme Court might initiate proceedings against the Punjab government for non-compliance of its directive to complete its portion of the SYL canal by January 15. Chautala has called an all-party meet on January 14 to discuss the issue. He was hopeful that the state Congress would attend the meeting.

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