CHANDIGARH: Haryana tonight rejected Punjab government's claims that two neighbouring states had agreed to find through talks a solution to the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue.
A Punjab government release had earlier said that responding to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh's call for discussions to resolve the decades-old contentious issue, the two states agreed to try and find a collective solution.
Rajnath's plea came after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, hosting the 28th meeting of the Northern Zonal Council (NZC) here, pushed for consensual resolution of the dispute by calling for coordination of the states and the central government.
However, a Haryana government release issued here tonight called it as "misleading and incorrect".
Haryana's Agriculture Minister, O P Dhankar, who was present in the meeting, said that Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had made it abundantly clear both in his printed speech and in his oral remarks that "there was no question of any dialogue on the SYL canal issue since the Supreme Court's judgment has attained finality and Haryana's execution petition is listed for hearing in July, 2017".
"In fact, just like the stand of the Haryana Chief Minister, the Union Home Minister said that while all states must make serious attempts to resolve all issues through dialogue under the aegis of the Zonal Council, the failure thereof would leave the recourse to the courts as the only final option," Dhankar said.
He said that in fact when Haryana pointed out that it was an issue of national concern that despite the Indus Water Treaty, more than 3 MAF water goes to Pakistan, "Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder said that that happened only during the monsoon".
Khattar said in the meeting that Haryana is more than willing to accept this water even during monsoon.
"Amarinder reacted by saying that if they were to do so, Haryana would be flooded. Khattar explained to him how thousands of villages of southern Haryana go thirsty even during monsoons and that the elaborate but usually dry canal network of Haryana can accept this water.
"While Amarinder looked at his officers, Haryana CM said that construction of SYL canal was a must for this water to come to the parched fields of Haryana whether during monsoon or otherwise. At this stage, there was no reaction from Punjab," Dhankar said giving out details.
Later in the meeting, Khattar pointed out as to how Punjab was not even allowing linking of Hansi-Butana Canal with Bhakra main line even though it did not involve drawing even a single drop of Punjab's water by Haryana.
Meanwhile, the Punjab Government release had earlier said that Amarinder suggested that the chief ministers and chief secretaries of both the states should sit and discuss the SYL issue threadbare in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.
The Punjab Chief Minister suggested the Union Water Resource Ministry convene a meeting of the CMs and Chief Secretaries at the earliest to take it forward.
Amarinder pointed out that with an estimated 10 lakh acres of southern Punjab likely to go dry following the construction of the SYL, the region, which had seen the emergence of Naxalism, could become the hotbed of terrorism, triggering a national problem.
Though Haryana had less land, it had been given more water at the time of Punjab's reorganisation, said Amarinder, pointing out that Punjab did not get any share of the Yamuna water.
Khattar said in the meeting that his government is willing to work towards an "amicable settlement" of every issue, "but we must always honour agreements arrived at in the past".
"Since our faith in the Constitution of India is full and unflinching we would never hesitate in taking legal recourse in our determination to safeguard our interests and to protect the rights of the residents of the State," Khattar said, according to a Haryana government release.
"Haryana is a water stressed State as against the demand of 36.0 MAF water, the availability of water is only 14.7 MAF. We have to give, out of our own share in the Yamuna waters, extra water to Delhi in compliance of the Apex Court's orders, even as Punjab is not delivering Haryana's full share of the Ravi-Beas water", Khattar added.
Khattar also termed it "most unfortunate" that thousands of villages in Haryana and millions of hectares of land are even today bereft of the water "that is our due from Punjab".
Earlier, in his address, Amarinder reiterated his demand for re-assessment and re-determination of the availability of surface waters in the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers.
Noting that Punjab was suffering an ecological crisis because of depletion of ground water, he urged the central government to take expert advice on how to make reliable estimates of future flows in these rivers.
Others who attended the meeting were Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore, who is also UT Chandigarh's Administrator, Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal, Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave, J-K Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, Himachal Pradesh minister Thakur Kaul Singh and Rajasthan minister Ram Pratap.