Dr Manohar Singh Gill, former Chief Election Commissioner and former union minister, who served as the Deputy Commissioner in Ambala and Lahaul Spiti in once-joint Punjab, feels river water disputes are not solved by court decisions.
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“The recent Supreme Court judgement (that invalidated Punjab’s stand to scrap the SYL project) has created a new crisis. I believe river water disputes, and they are everywhere in the world, are not solved by courts. They have to be settled by mutual discussion leading to a fair decision.”
Linking the water dispute with the trifurcation of the state, Dr Gill, said, “The division was unfair with many Punjabi-speaking areas going to Haryana, and our riparian state was given a raw deal and forced to share its river waters.”
“We have overused our soil to fill the granaries of the country and help to feed the deficit states. We helped other states to overcome their deficit of grain. Then the former union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar came to Chandigarh a few years ago, and told us that they do not want our produce any longer! Where will we go now? Do you not see how the procurement of our grain is being steadily curtailed? And what all we have lost? Our environment; our sweet waters which are now toxic, and our underground water which is now drying up. Our landholdings have shrunk with our farmers owning as little as 2 acres.”
He also lamented the “loss” of Chandigarh after the second division of Punjab. “Punjab’s capital is under the control of the centre. A Station House Officer (SHO) in Chandigarh can charge Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal legally, as he is only a tenant there. So is the Haryana Chief Minister. When they divided Andhra Pradesh, Telangana got Hyderabad straight away, while the new Andhra capital is rapidly coming up. Why is Punjab kept without a capital forever?”
The challenges are many in front of Punjabis, feels Dr Gill. “I do not envy the next Chief Minister. All potential CMs, including Arvind Kejriwal must think what they will do. They face poisoned water, rivers unfairly shared with others, and sitting in somebody else’s city. Because this will be the curse on the Punjab that they will have to face.”
“The trifurcation was a sad chapter in the history of the Punjab. What they gave us was not a fair boundary. The boundary was made on the 1961 census, which was false. Politically, a section of the people, even in Amritsar were directed to refuse Punjabi as their mother tongue.Justice has not been meted out to the Punjab.”