PLAYING THE water card in poll-bound Punjab, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said he had constituted a “task force” to ensure that not a drop of water from rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi flowed into Pakistan. Under the 1960 Indus Waters treaty between India and Pakistan, India has unrestricted rights of use of the water of these three rivers. Hitting out at previous governments in Delhi, which “came and went, but kept sleeping over the issue”, the Prime Minister said exclusive use of the water of the three rivers as per the treaty was the right of India and its farmers.
He was addressing a rally in Bathinda, the Badal hinterland and the parliamentary constituency represented by Union Food Processing Minister and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
“Now, every drop of water [from the three rivers] that flows to Pakistan would be stopped and be made available to farmers of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and the country,” Modi said, seeking “aashirwad” from the gathering for this.
Referring to the stikes on terror camps in PoK by the Indian forces, he said, “The echo of the surgical strike can still be heard in Pakistan and the matter is still alive there.”
“If Pakistan is so keen to fight, they should fight against corruption in their country, against poverty and black money in their country. When they fight us, they get harm themselves and at the same time many innocents are killed. Now that Pakistan has seen our might, it is better for them to fight the social evils which Pakistan’s public wants to get rid of,” he said, referring to the hostilities along the border.
In his speech, the Prime Minister also made an oblique reference to the tussle between Punjab and Haryana over the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal and said, “Paani ki samasya ka samadhaan hai. Mil baith ke raaste nikal sakte hain (Water dispute can be solved. Ways could be found out with mutual discussions).”
Lauding Punjab farmers for their contribution to the food basket of the country, Modi said Punjab farmers could turn earth into gold if they get water. He said his government was committed to protecting the rights of farmers and for that the “government in Delhi would act in unison with Punjab government led by Badal”.
He also had another message for the farmers that he acknowledged might not appeal to them. “I want to make a request to farmers. Someone will say Modi does not know politics. He is giving such advice to farmers at the time of elections but I have nothing to do with the arithmetic of politics… Earlier, when we had less awareness, we used to burn crop stubble. Science has proved that the best nutrition for soil is when the stubble that is left behind after harvest is ploughed back to it. Just as Mother Earth is thirsty for water, she also feels hungry… I am not among those who only talk about the environment. I am concerned about your welfare of the farmers. Farmers in Punjab, western UP, northern Rajasthan, Haryana, this is an invaluable asset, don’t burn it,” he said, asking them to adopt more scientific alternatives.
(With inputs from Navjeevan Gopal)