The tussle over the waters of Yamuna between Punjab and Haryana is a classic example of how ad hoc solutions to complex problems damage it all the more instead of solving it.
In 1966, the erstwhile Punjab state was demarcated along the linguistic lines. The Hindi dominant Haryana state was carved out of Punjabi speaking Punjab state. Out of the Indus water treaty undivided Punjab was using the waters of the 3 eastern rivers, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej and Yamuna river too.
After the partition, Haryana was entitled to receive waters from Ravi, Beas and Sutlej but Punjab was not given any share in the waters of Yamuna.
In 1976, Indira Gandhi government decided to allot 3. 5 million acre feet each to Punjab and Haryana from the waters of the three rivers.
So, Haryana government proposed the Sutlej-Yamuna link canal and completed the work on its side by 1980. In order to tap the agrarian sentiments, Indira Gandhi laid the foundations of the portion of the canal on the Punjab side.
By 1990, when about 90% of the work was complete, Punjab decided to put the work to a halt suggesting that Haryana be given waters from the Bhakra Canal system.
When the matters reached the Supreme Court, the Punjab government was told to complete the construction of the canal on its side. In 2003, a review petition. Was dismissed and in 2004, the court asked the central government to appoint a high powered committee that would oversee the completion of the work.
In the same year, the Punjab government passed a regulation quashing all the water sharing agreements with its neighbors and decided to return the land to the owners whose land had been acquired for the canal construction purposes by the state government. In 2016, the state government passed an act to this effect unanimously.
Punjab’s stance has been that it has no waters to share with Haryana given it has been already sharing waters with Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. Driven by excessive regional chauvinism, the regional leaders have been asking the local population to fill the canal with mud and reclaim the lands.
Haryana claims it has suffered losses to the tunes of 3500 crores on accounts of the delays in the canal construction works as it would have grown additional 8 lakh tons of food-grains earnings 1000 crores additionally per year.
The stance of Punjab has set a very poor precedent as it means that India can share waters with its arc nemesis Pakistan but not able to solve it within its own territories. It is also against the spirit of nation building too.
Around 700 crores have been spent on the construction of the canal and Supreme Court has realized that such a colossal waste of public money cannot be allowed and it had asked Central government to complete the works in case if the Punjab government fails to complete the canal works.
In 2016, the Supreme Court while referring to a presidential reference about the 2004 termination of water sharing agreement act, asked Punjab government to maintain status quo.
The display of incendiary regionalism in the poll bound state is more driven by vote politics. Be it Congress or AAP or the Akalis, none is having the stance that can possibly diffuse the situation and lead towards a solution possibly.