Pritam Singh Kumedan is in agony today. The well-known river waters expert feels that ultimately, the Supreme Court is going to play heavy on Punjab. The 95 years young Kumedan does not want to be called old man as he says that he is ‘young at heart.’ Amidst the raging debate over SYL imbroglio, he takes out time on Monday to talk to DailyPost Deputy Editor Rajinder S Taggar.
Q. What is going to be the scene after Supreme Court’s advice to the President of India on SYL?
Ans. The state government can now ask the President to hold implementation of the verdict on SYL and seek clarifications from the apex court, as it has not given specific answers to the four specific queries sent to it, by the President.
Q. What are these four questions?
Ans. Firstly, whether the Constitution of India grants rights to the Centre, to decide about river water distribution? Secondly, whether Section 78 of Reorganisation Act stands violated? Thirdly, whether Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan could enter into water-sharing agreement? And lastly, whether SC decrees of 2002 and 2004 are valid?
Q. You are getting too legalistic; readers may not be able to understand.
Ans: Yes, but this is necessary to understand the problem.
Q. Please tell how can be Punjab’s river waters saved?
Ans. (takes a deep breath). When President will send the Supreme Court advisory to the Union Cabinet, it will recommend implementation of the apex court advice. In such a situation, the state will have to share what is called ‘surplus’ water with Haryana and Rajasthan.
Q. That means Punjab has no case against Haryana.
Ans. Punjab’s case has not been argued properly over the years. We say that under the Riparian law, a state through which a river passes has the right to use its water. The Constitution does not provide for a Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi) to cobble up any agreement between the two or more states under duress.
Q. So the cardinal sin was committed by late Indira Gandhi who forced Congress government in Punjab to sign an agreement.
Ans. Yes. There was a height of sycophancy at that time. No Congressman could argue in front of Indira Gandhi as she was more of a dictator.
Q. Is Supreme Court partisan in its decisions and advice?
Ans. I don’t say that, but yes Punjab’s argument of Riparian rights had been trashed. And, if the demanded million acres of feet (MAF) of water is given, nine lakh acres of land in Malwa belt would turn into a desert.
Q. Why does Punjab not stake claim to a share in Yamuna waters?
Ans. No, that will be wrong. It will weaken our stand. We say Haryana is free to use the Yamuna waters as a Riparian state. Punjab too should be free to use its river waters as it deems fit. Three rivers, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej pass through Punjab. Based on this argument, Punjab is positioned well to seek return of river waters from other states. I mean stop sharing of waters.
Q. So how can Punjab save its river waters?
Ans. There is only one method and it is the negotiation table. The Centre should call a meeting of stakeholders and make them reach an amicable solution. Otherwise, there would be a law-and-order problem in Punjab and Haryana. Punjab’s situation can also lead to strengthening of radicals who seem to be ready to cash upon the public sentiment.
Q. Which political party is responsible for creating tension?
Ans: Both, the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Leaders of the two main political parties are issuing inflammatory statements. Each one is boasting of sacrificing lives, if water is given to Haryana. In response, Haryana politicians are threatening not to allow travellers from Punjab to pass through to Delhi and rest of India. Haryana has already stopped plying its buses in Punjab.
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