Why SYL Canal Dispute Had Been So Popular Till Now?

Last Update – Aug 02, 2016

In anticipation of SYL Canal verdict by Indian Supreme Court, Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal is mobilizing support from the rural masses. SYL has been an emotive issue and the same can be the major factor during upcoming elections.

According to an internal survey conducted by The Tribune that Akali’s stand strong with the support on SYL Canal Issue and can win major votes if verdict is in favor of Punjab.

Punjab has entirely withdrawn its interest out of SYL canal dispute by explicitly stating that river-canal“the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal will not be allowed to be constructed at any cost” by its Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal. The statement was made against the Supreme Court decision and command to Punjab for maintaining the status quo on Sutlej Yamuna Link canal land.

On one side where the new land owners (formerly the old owners) are thanking the goodness for being handled over the lands of heavy prices. On the alter side, this non-treaty has brought an air of disappointment for Haryana Government (the main benefiter from the agreement). With increasing hopes and complexities, the issue is more of seems a political dispute rather than mere a water scarcity problem between states.

At first, it was just a matter of “give and take” (Punjab giving water to other states). But with changing time, the natural circumstances are not with Punjab and the 50-year-old agreement has become an unwelcomed issue with the state. Also, the other states like Haryana are equal sufferers by losing their long-cherished hopes.

The accused is, “the time” here. The enormously long duration of 40 years was taken to build this 214 km long canal, without paying any attention towards enormous time and money expenditure.

Below dates reveals the brief picture of how the issue became enormously debatable over time:

sutlej canal link-infographic

Jan 29, 1955: Punjab, PEPSU, Rajasthan, Kashmir consent to agreement for water usage of Ravi and Beas

Sept 19, 1960: India signs Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan and obtained water of Sutlej, Beas and Ravi for India

Nov 1, 1966: Haryana cut out of Punjab under Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966.

Feb, 1971: Center’s abnormal state board prescribes 3.782 MAF water to Haryana and 3.087 MAF to Punjab

March 24, 1976: Center issues warning for distributing surplus Ravi-Beas waters to Punjab, Haryana with Haryana recommending SYL canal to be built.

1976: Haryana began development on its bit of Sutlej Yamuna Link channel

June 1980: Haryana’s a piece of Sutlej Yamuna Link channel finished Dec 31, 1981: River water-sharing settlement marked by Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan. It was concurred that Punjab would build the Sutlej Yamuna Link in its state inside two years.

April 8, 1982: Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi dug the ground for beginning SYL waterway at Kapoori town

July 24, 1985 : ‘Settlement Accord’ between Rajiv Gandhi, then Akali Dal president Sant Harchand Singh Longowal to finish waterway by August 15, 1986

Nov 5, 1985 : Punjab Assembly passes a determination disavowing December 1981 water sharing Treaty

Jan 30, 1987 : Water Tribunal orders Punjab to finish waterway development quickly

July 1990 : Punjab entirely stops development of waterway, that was 90 percent for complete.

Feb 20, 1991 : Prime Minister coordinated Border Roads Organization ought to finish canal on crisis balance

March 12, 1994: Agreement marked for sharing water of Yamuna waterway between Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh

July 1995 : Punjab issues white paper taking stand not to continue with development and Haryana ought to be given water from Bhakra Canal System

Jan 15, 2002: Supreme Court guides Punjab to finish canal in a year

March 2002: Supreme Court releases Punjab’s audit appeal.

2003: Punjab records another appeal in Supreme Court looking for release from obligation of Sutlej Yamuna Link canal development

June 4, 2004: Supreme Court guides Center to attempt waterway’ development under powerful panel supervision

July 12, 2004 : Punjab Assembly singularly passes Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004

February 28, 2005: Supreme Court begins hearings on Presidential reference on Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004

March 14, 2016 : Punjab Assembly collectively passes Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Property Rights) Bill, 2016 to return 3,928 sections of land of gained area

March 16, 2016: The Supreme Court orders Punjab to keep up existing conditions on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal.

Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal

Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal (SARYU) or SYL as it is prominently known, is a proposed 214-kilometres (133 mi) long channel in India to associate the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers. However, the plan met obstacles and alluded to the Supreme Court of India. It characterizes river water sharing between Punjab and Haryana states.


Back in the history, the making of Haryana from the old (unified) Punjab in 1966 hurled the issue of giving Haryana its offer of waterway waters. Punjab was against sharing waters of the Ravi and Beas with Haryana, referring to riparian standards, and contending that it had no water to save. At a state meeting met by the central government in 1955, the total calculated flow (read water) of the Ravi and Beas — 15.85 million acre-feet (MAF) — had been partitioned among Rajasthan (8 MAF), whole Punjab (7.20 MAF) and Jammu and Kashmir (0.65 MAF).

In March 1976, 10 years after the Punjab Reorganization Act was actualized, and even as Punjab kept on dissenting, the Center issued a notice distributing to Haryana 3.5 MAF out of unified Punjab’s 7.2 MAF.

To empower Haryana to utilize its offer of the waters of the Sutlej and its tributary Beas, a waterway connecting the Sutlej with the Yamuna, cutting over the state, was arranged. On April 8, 1982, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ritualistically dug the ground at Kapoori village in Patiala area for the development of the 214-km Sutlej-Yamuna Link (or Sutlej Yamuna Link) channel, 122 km of which was to be in Punjab, and 92 km in Haryana.

A year prior, Indira Gandhi had arranged a tripartite agreement between Punjab (where Darbara Singh of the Congress was Chief Minister), Haryana (where Bhajan Lal, who had abandoned to the Congress from the Janata Party with various MLAs, was CM), and Rajasthan (where again the Congress was in force, with Shiv Charan Mathur as CM).

Accessible supplies of the Beas and Ravi were recalculated to be 17.17 MAF, and Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan were distributed 4.22 MAF, 3.5 MAF and 8.6 MAF separately. Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi got 0.65 MAF and 0.20 MAF. The Akali Dal, which was against the treaty, began a concern known as Kapoori Morcha to restrict the development of the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal.

The Dispute on SYL

dispute-sutlej yamuna link canal

The question started after Punjab was rearranged on October 31, 1966, and the condition of Haryana was made. The sharing of stream water turned into the bone of conflict. In 1976 the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi mediated and chose that both the state will get 3.5 million section of land feet of water each. Inferable from Punjab’s inaction in 1979 Haryana drew nearer the Supreme Court to execute this distribution. After 1990’s on spread on Punjab’s militancy the development was stopped.

In January 2002 the Supreme Court guided the Punjab Government to keep following the task. Punjab tried to be released from this commitment in 2003. In 2004 the Punjab State Legislature passed the “Punjab Termination of Agreement Act 2004”, to denotify the area. A Presidential Reference to the Supreme Court as to the same was made in 2004 and in 2016 March the Supreme Court has taken up the same for hearing.

In 2016, Punjab assembly has likewise looked to pass a Bill to restore the area acquired for the canal connection to the farmers free of expense. Supreme Court has agreed to pass the Bill.

The issue is very well capable of changing the political discourse in the state of Punjab. Especially the former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh (Congress Chief) will be very benefitted if the plan develops anymore.

The basic story behind SYL dispute is all about water scarcity. Back in 1966, when a new small state was formed out of Punjab state, named Haryana. Water was one of the chief issues. Since Punjab is the land of 5 rivers, an agreement regarding water sharing with neighbouring states was signed. Breaching of this agreement after almost 50 years is what bothering the hopeful folks waiting for water since years.

Current Conditions

current sutlej yamuna link issue

The Center on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it is keeping up its stand of 2004 tackled the touchy Sutlej-Yamuna Link trench case and needs that both Punjab and Haryana ought to settle their debate on the matter independent from anyone else.

“In 2004, the then Attorney General showing up for sake of Central government has said that he doesn’t wish to put forth any expression nor will document any oath. We are keeping up the same stand on the reference and need that States ought to settle their debate independent from anyone else,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice A. R. Dave.

The Bench, additionally including Justices P C Ghose, Shiva Kirti Singh, A K Goel and Amitava Roy, which is listening to the Presidential reference on Sutlej Yamuna Link question, saved its decision on the issue and requested that the gatherings document the composed entries, assuming any, in seven days.

The Solicitor General further said that if Punjab has ended the assertions, then it unmistakably implies it wouldn’t like to give water to different States.

To this, the Bench said that the contention of Punjab is that unless it is resolved, they would proceed with the current plans. “In the event that existing conditions is kept up then and what will the Tribunal choose and what Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and different States are getting today and what they were getting prior were same, then there is no requirement for settling of the matter. In the event that understandings are ended, then no Tribunal is required to resolve the matters,” the SG said.

The Center in past couple of hearings had additionally said that it was not taking sides and was keeping up a nonpartisan stand.

Amid the progressing hearing when Punjab Assembly had passed a law to return the area gained on its side for the development of SYL trench, Haryana government had drawn nearer the summit court which had coordinated existing conditions.

It had additionally delegated the Union Home Secretary and the Punjab Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police (DGP) as the ‘joint collector’ of area and other property implied for Sutlej Yamuna Link channel.

Delhi’s stand


Senior supporter Indira Jaisingh, showing up for the Delhi government, advised the Bench they needed to pull back the prior testimony recorded in the court. “Our stand is that Delhi’s privilege of its offer of water be ensured under the law. Every single existing right be ensured. For us, the matter of concern is that the allotment of water ought to be ensured. We are not going into the debate of Punjab and Haryana over the trench.” – PTI

Some proved to be self-serving promisors

One other hand, AAP government is totally saving itself from the case. But the scenarios were different back then when Aam Aadmi Party had promised about finding a lasting solution for the running debate.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) state government in Delhi on Monday separated itself from the discussion amongst Haryana and Punjab on sharing water through the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal.

The Arvind Kejriwal-government submitted in the witness of the Supreme Court that it would not like to take sides yet was more worried about Delhi’s water offer under the task. Showing up for the Delhi government, senior supporter Indira Jaising told a constitution seat headed by equity AR Dave that her client would not go into the discussion of who was correct. She asked for the court to guarantee that Delhi’s offer of water was ensured under the law. The Supreme Court is listening to the Presidential Reference on the Sutlej Yamuna Link question.

“We insist that the allocation to us should come. For us, the matter of concern is that the allocation of water should be protected,” Indira Jaising submitted. The Delhi government’s most recent stand comes a week after it pulled back composed entries documented in the Supreme Court in the interest of Delhi Jal Board (DJB), in which it had bolstered Haryana.

It was compelled to do as such after the Akali government  of Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab blamed Kejriwal for doublespeak on the SYL issue. Kejriwal was accused of telling voters in Punjab that the state did not have even a drop of water to impart to Haryana, and saying precisely the inverse in the top court.

On March 14, the Punjab gathering passed a bill against building the Sutlej Yamuna Link, permitting the return of canal area to farmers for agriculture. After three days, the Supreme Court stopped the move and named the Union home secretary and Punjab’s central secretary and executive general of police (DGP) as “joint collectors” of the area and other SYL property till further requests. Punjab said it had the privilege to end the water-offering consent to its neighbour.

Advocate Suresh Tripathy, who had documented the composed accommodation for the DJB and was sacked for acting past guidelines, said the AAP government had asserted wrongly that he was not approved to record the papers.

At this, the bench asked Delhi government counsel Indira Jaising to deal with the issue, to which she concurred, saying: “The entries recommend that the Delhi government is supporting a specific party, which is not the situation.”

Here are some true supporters

Shiromani Akali Dal is all in favour and proves to be the saviour of Punjab during these tough times. The venture hasn’t been chipped away at since the year 1991, when its two top specialists were shot dead by Khalistani aggressors. The Akali Dal has been fighting for the Punjab water and has proved to be very faithful to their words.

Badal said he won’t permit “a single drop of water to flow out of Punjab”. “In fact, an extremely critical and dangerous water crisis stares our population in the face. I would rather shed every drop of my blood than allow a drop of Punjab’s river waters to flow out in violation of its rights.”

Some Choose to be neutral

Where all are either supporting Punjab decision or against it, BJP is speaking least about the matter. It can also prove to be positive to do in this period of disputes, since the matter is highly sensitive for state farmers and both sides are at equal stakes.

Impact of SYL dispute


Though the SYL dispute has its own natural outcomes like the loss of the massive amount of capital and time. But there are certain things, which indicates that it can merely be a matter of political strategies. There is an air of elections prevailing in Punjab and the most controversial issue of the time (Sutlej Yamuna Link project) seems to be the best area to gain voters’ confidence. Also, this is a non-election period in Haryana, so people of Haryana have the least power to jump to any conclusion and support that.

Where these guesstimates seem to answer all queries towards the Punjab’s ruling party’s sudden concern over much older water issue, we cannot totally conclude it like that and accuse the Akali Dal, calling it an election game. If the problem resolves even under the shelter of election time, it will be a huge relief for all who are at stake. Also, if Akali Dal succeeds in saving Punjab farmers’ long prevailing issue, it will be in great favours towards the state farmers who are facing water level lowering issues since decades.

On the other side, it may prove to be a huge disappointment for Haryana farmers. The long cherished hopes for water in the fields will come to an end, but that’s where political stratagems take place.

The issue is so much in turmoil that the center has told Supreme court that, they are totally on fair grounds over Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal dispute. “We are neutral. We cannot take a stand,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar submitted before a Constitution Bench led by Justice Anil R Dave.

1 Comment
  1. Supreme Court’s decision on SYL is totally unfair with Punjab. Supreme Court has completely ignored the international water law. I did not surprise by this decision of court because I already feared that court would be injustice to Punjab…

    I am totally sure that people of Punjab will stand against SYL. The central government has always treated with Punjab as Stepbrother. Punjab has always given most of Sacrifice for India. If Supreme Court, central Government are forced Punjab to make canal. The people of Punjab will stand against India. Khalistan armed movement will be start again. Soon the people of Punjab will also chanting the slogans of Go back India Go back like kashmiri’s.

    So forget SYL canal, it will not be complete at any cost. The entire Punjabi’s are ready to give their lives for Punjab rights

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