Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday exhorted the Centre to provide solution to the decades old Sutlej–Yamuna Link canal dispute between Punjab and Haryana. Kejriwal was in Hisar to launch his party’s “Make India No. 1” campaign in Haryana. He was accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann.

Throwing a gauntlet down at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kejriwal said, “I appeal to the prime minster to ensure arrangement of adequate water for both Punjab and Haryana. If he does not have the solution, then call me for a tea and I will give the solution.” The dispute has to be resolved, he further said.

When reporters asked the Delhi chief minister about his stand on the dispute, Kejriwal questioned the opposition parties’ stand on the issue. “First the BJP and Congress should clarify their stand on the SYL issue. In Punjab, they say SYL will not be constructed. But in Haryana, they say we will take the water of SYL. These parties do dirty politics,” said Kejriwal.

The AAP supremo’s statement assumes significance as the decades-old SYL dispute has once again become a major issue in state politics particularly after the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana to meet and find an amicable solution to the dispute.

Addressing the press conference alongside his party colleague, Mann said, “I have no hesitation in meeting the Haryana chief minister on the issue. But the Centre should find a solution as both states are facing a water shortage.” The Punjab chief minister added, “The responsibility of the Central government is to solve the problem, instead of making both brothers fight. I am ready for a meeting on the SYL issue.”

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reprimanded Punjab on the SYL issue and ordered the Union Jal Shakti Ministry to mediate between the chief ministers of both states and submit a report on the progress on negations. The apex court has scheduled the next hearing on 15 January.

However, the AAP leadership in Punjab and Haryana hold a contradictory and antagonistic view of the dispute.

Punjab Rural and Panchayat Minister Kuldeep Dhaliwal on record has bluntly stated that the state does not have a drop of water to spare for any other state. On the other hand, Sushil Gupta, Haryana in-charge of the AAP, has several times promised to provide SYL water to Haryana’s parched fields by 2024.

The SYL dispute dates back to 1966 when Haryana was carved out of Punjab. A decade before the reorganisation of Punjab, the Centre had allocated Rajasthan, undivided Punjab and J&K their share of water from the Ravi and Beas rivers.

Ten years after the formation of Haryana, the Centre issued a notification for the allocation of river waters to all states in 1981. According to this arrangement, the Centre allocated 3.5 million acre feet (MAF) of water to Haryana, 4.22 MAF to Punjab and 8.6 MAF to Rajasthan.

Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched the SYL canal project in 1982 to facilitate the distribution of water to these states.

However, the Akalis launched an agitation against the construction of the canal. Even the Rajiv–Longowal accord could not cut any ice and as the Sikh militancy gained momentum in the state two senior engineers associated with the canal project were killed in 1995. Some labourers were also killed by militants. These killings led to stoppage of the project.

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