CHANDIGARH: Farmers in Haryana, mobilised by the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), parked their tractors across National Highway (NH) 1 near Ambala and four other entry points from Punjab to Haryana to press for work to begin on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.
As vehicles backed up on the arterial roads, they handed out flowers to the flustered motorists and spoke about how the proposed canal would be the lifeline of Haryana, no hard feelings.
Punjab Roadways and the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation did not ply their buses to Haryana and Delhi today. There were gridlocks on the Lalru-Chandigarh road, the Ambala-Shambhu border (NH1), Narwana-Dhanauri, Ratia-Budlahada road (Jakhal point) in Fathehabad district and Dabwali on the Haryana-Punjab border. A toll plaza at Shambhu on the Punjab and Haryana border was forced to close down.
Rapid Action Force personnel stood by nervously as thousands of vehicles came to a standstill. Authorities in Punjab imposed Section 144 on their side of the border lest INLD cross over and stir up trouble at the Shambhu barrier. The Punjab Police deployed anti-riot vehicles near Rajpura.
The Haryana party's state president Ashok Arora said, "Our protest is symbolic. We are giving flowers to people at protest points and telling them how Haryana has been waiting for 50 long years to get its share of water. We don’t have anything against the people of Punjab, but we want to wake up both the Central and Haryana Governments out of their slumber on SYL.’’ The party's INLD national general secretary and the leader of the Opposition in Haryana, Abhay Singh Chautala said this was only the beginning. The agitation would be intensified in the coming days and attacked chief minister M L Khattar for doing nothing on the SYL canal and the Congress for being the B team of the BJP.
He further added that 60 per cent of Haryana has already become a water-deficit zone and if the SYL link canal is not built, it would become a desert.
The SYL canal is to be built in Punjab to supply to Haryana its share of the water of the Sutlej river. A Supreme Court verdict mandates it but Punjab, with all its political parties adopting competitively hardline stances, has said it will never allow it to be built.