Punjab Assembly on 14 March 2016 unanimously passed the 'Punjab Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal land (Transfer of Proprietary Right) Bill, 2016'. The bill was passed against the construction of contentious Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL).
The bill is an attempt to divest its neighbouring states from getting share from Punjab’s river waters.
Highlights of the Bill
• It seeks to provide transfer of proprietary rights back to the land owners from whom the land was acquired by the state government for the construction of SYL free of cost.
• The state government shall notify suitable machinery for settlement of claims of any landowner or any other party
• No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the state government or any person for anything which is done in good faith or intend to be done in pursuance of this Act.
• Section 8 of the Bill empowers the state government to make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act.
The Bill was passed hours before the SYL issue was being heard in the Supreme Court. In the apex court, the Attorney General of India Mukul Rohtagi stated that Central Government will not become party to any of the state.
The passage of the bill has been criticised by Haryana’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. He termed it as "unconstitutional" and an "injury" to the federal structure and said his state would reciprocate.
What is River Water Dispute between Punjab and Haryana?
The 61-year-old water dispute between the two states started after the first agreement was signed in 1955. As per the agreement reached during an inter-state meeting convened by the Union Government, the waters of the Ravi and the Beas were allocated to various states in following manner:
• Rajasthan 8.00 MAF (9,767.8 MCM);
• Punjab 7.20 MAF (8,881 MCM); and
• Jammu and Kashmir 0.65 MAF (801.76 MCM)
This allocation was based upon the basis of flow data available from 1921-45 that estimated the mean flow of the two rivers at 15.85 MAF (19550.66 MCM) over and above the actual pre-partition use. This agreement was followed by numerous agreements like the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, 1966 Punjab Reorganization Act, the 1981 Indira Gandhi and 1985 Rajiv Longowal Accord.
With the reorganization of the state of Punjab with effect from 1 November 1966, the question of Haryana's share in the waters allocated to Punjab under the 1955 agreement was raised. This led Punjab to approach the apex court in 1976.
March 1976 Notification
Subsequently, in exercise of the power conferred by the Punjab Reorganization Act, Union Government issued a notification in March 1976 allocating 3.5 MAF (4,317 MCM) to Haryana out of the 7.2 MAF (8,881 MCM) earlier allocated to the composite Punjab state. However, Punjab was not happy with this decision.
December 1981 Agreement
After a number of discussions, a fresh agreement was accepted between the party states in December 1981 whereby the available supplies were estimated to be 17.17 MAF (21,178.86 MCM) on the basis of the 1921 to 1960 flow series.
These were allocated to different states as: Punjab 4.22 MAF (5,205 MCM); Haryana 3.50 MAF (4,317 MCM); Rajasthan 8.60 MAF (10,608 MCM); Jammu and Kashmir 0.65 MAF (801.76 MCM); and Delhi Water Supply 0.20 MAF (246.7 MCM).
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