Congress stages protest on Sutlej Yamuna Link; leaders detained, police use water cannon

The Congress leaders also alleged that the Punjab government had failed to safeguard the interests of the state over the SYL issue.

ByAayush Goel

Published Oct 09, 2023 | 8:50 PMUpdatedOct 09, 2023 | 8:50 PM

Protest on Sutlej Yamuna Link

High drama prevailed in Chandigarh on Monday, 9 October, as Congress organised a protest march on the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue. The party leaders were headed to meet the Governor and give a representation when cops had to use water cannons to disperse them. 

Several Congress leaders including the party’s Punjab president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa, MLA Rana Gurjeet Singh, former minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, former Punjab assembly speaker Rana KP Singh were detained. 

Police claimed that they had raised barricades to prevent protesters from moving towards the residence of the Governor. When the Congress workers tried to force their way through barricades, they used a water cannon to stop them. 

Related: SYL issue flares up in Punjab, Haryana post SC’s latest directive

‘No surplus water’

Addressing the march, Bajwa said they will not allow a single drop of water from Punjab to flow to any other state and that they will also not allow the canal to be built. He said Punjab has no surplus water to share with any other state.

The Congress leaders also targeted the Bhagwant Mann government, alleging that the Punjab government had failed to safeguard the interests of the state over the SYL issue.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) dismissed the protest march as a media gimmick claiming AAP and Congress had already entered an alliance and were befooling people. The Punjab BJP had on Saturday, 7 October, held a protest, accusing the AAP government of failing to safeguard the state’s interest in river water.

On 4 October, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to survey the portion of land in Punjab which was allocated for the construction of part of the SYL canal in the state and make an estimate of the extent of construction carried out there. 

Related: Punjab, Haryana spar over Sutlej Yamuna Link canal

AAP criticised for mishandling

While all parties in Punjab are against the canal, they are also accusing the AAP government of not handling the issue properly. Responding to the same Punjab Chief Minister Mann challenged the BJP, Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal for an open debate on issues pertaining to the state on 1 November. All parties have accepted the challenge seeking a public debate. 

Punjab BJP chief Sunil Jakhar claimed that the state government in the apex court stated that the government was ready to build the canal but the opposition parties and farmers were opposing it.

It may be noted that the SYL canal was conceptualised for the effective allocation of water from the Ravi and Beas rivers. The project envisaged a 214 km canal, of which a 122 km stretch was to be constructed in Punjab and the remaining 92 km in Haryana. 

Haryana has completed the project in its territory but Punjab, which launched the construction work in 1982, shelved it subsequently. Haryana has been seeking completion of the canal to get its share of 3.5 million acre-feet of the water, and also that Punjab should comply with the 2002 and 2004 Supreme Court orders for the completion of the canal.