Even as the Punjab government hopes that the Supreme Court scraps the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal, farmers of the state are divided over the issue.
Punjab had earlier de-notified the construction of the SYL canal. It even promised to return the land to the original owners. That was when its neighbours took the government to the Supreme Court which ordered it to maintain status quo.
Availability of water, it the main reason why some farmers, adjoining the canal, refused to side with the Punjab government. “At some places, the earth has to be dug to up to 500 feet to get water. The cost for this is as high as Rs 5 lakh,” said Ajmer Singh, a resident of Mehdoodan village adjacent to proposed canal portion near Chunni village in Fatehgarh Sahib district. “Not one farmer from our village went when the canal was being filled.”
While many panchayats across several districts passed resolutions against the construction of the canal, Chunni village did not. “Our Panchayat has not passed any resolution. If the canal becomes functional, we hope we get water for irrigation,” said panchayat member Jagmohan Singh. He added that water from the canal will help increase the groundwater level too.
Others, on the other hand, are more concerned over the size of the project.
“This is such a big project. How can it be shelved?,” asked Lambar, a resident of Mehdoodan village. “People say the cost of the project itself is several thousands of crores. Moreover, Haryana is also part of the nation. We exchange with each other.”
Similar are the reasons expressed by residents of nearby village Bassian Baidwan.
“We cannot afford to cross swords with politicians. But, if the canal becomes functional, the water problem in the area could be addressed to large extent and it will be good for farmers,” said Mohan Singh, a resident.
Rural Development and Panchayats minister Sikander Singh Maluka, however, said that “a number of districts would stand to lose water if the canal becomes operational”.
“I agree that the water table in adjoining areas of the canal will be slightly improved if it is functional, but on the other hand several districts would go dry. So, we are opposing it. Today, Panchayats in districts like Ropar and Nawanshahr submitted memorandums to deputy commissioners to oppose it [the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal project]. We have nothing against Haryana. If as per riparian principles, it deserves water, we have no problem with that. But, as per accepted laws, Haryana does not deserve [water],” the minister said.