By Vishal Gulati
Chandigarh, Jun 3 (IANS): Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Saturday said the state government has been misleading the farmers and the state on the construction of the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, bringing back into focus the decades-old contentious issue of sharing of river waters between Haryana and Punjab.
"The decision (relating to the SYL) has already been given by the Supreme Court in favour of Haryana. It's the responsibility of the government to implement this decision," he told IANS in an interaction here.
Responding to a question on the proposed meeting between the Chief Ministers of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh on water sharing on June 5, the two-time chief minister said: "The BJP has its government both in the state and the Centre. Despite this, the decision of the Supreme Court is not being implemented. Now, to complicate and delay the matter, it is being said that the SYL water will come to Haryana via Himachal.
"The question is why the BJP-JJP government is not filing a contempt case in the Supreme Court? Why are they not talking about bringing Haryana's water through the SYL canal built in Punjab? Why does the coalition government always keep silence on the rights of Haryana," Hooda categorically asked Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
The Vidhan Sabha last year passed a resolution seeking completion of the SYL canal.
The resolution says: "The August House has unanimously on at least seven occasions passed resolutions urging the early completion of the SYL canal."
Under the provision of Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966, according to the order of the government of India dated March 24, 1976, 3.5 million acre feet (MAF) of water was allocated to Haryana out of the surplus water of the Ravi-Beas.
Due to non-completion of the SYL canal, Haryana is using only 1.62 MAF of water.
In October last, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and his Haryana counterpart Khattar had failed to reach a consensus over the SYL canal issue.
A crucial meeting over the issue was held between the two CMs in Chandigarh after the Supreme Court had asked them to meet and find an amicable solution.
Mann had clearly said that Punjab has no surplus water to share with Haryana. He sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention to provide additional water to Haryana either from the Ganga or the Yamuna river basins to overcome its shortage.
Khattar had categorically ruled out that any initiative to hold the next round of talks between the Chief Ministers will be taken.
Responding to another question, Hooda objected to cooperative banks charging interest on crop loans from the farmers.
The Leader of Opposition told IANS that during the Congress tenure, the interest was reduced to zero while giving relief to farmers on crop loans.
"The burden on the farmers was borne by the government itself and no interest was charged from the farmers, but the present government did not renew this scheme of interest relief. Because of this, banks started collecting interest from the farmers."
He said the BJP-JJP (Jannayak Janta Party) government should renew the scheme implemented by the Congress without delay.
"The farmers from whom interest has been recovered so far should be refunded and it should be ensured that such recovery will not happen to any farmer in future."
He told IANS the government has not taken a single decision in the interest of the farmers till date.
"Sunflower farmers are waiting for MSP (minimum support price), but the government is talking of Bhavantar Bharpai Yojana. Farmers are facing a loss of Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500 per quintal. The government is running away from its responsibility of giving the MSP to them.
"One by one, crops with the MSP are also being linked to such Bhavantar Bharpai Yojana, which does not benefit the farmers."
Under the Bhavantar Bharpai Yojana, the government pays a fixed compensation against the produce sold below the MSP.
Hooda said the government is also misleading the farmers regarding the compensation for crops due to unseasonal rains.
"Farmers have been waiting for compensation for the last several seasons. The government starts patting itself on the back by distributing compensation only on paper. A total of 17 lakh acres of crops were damaged due to rains but the government registered damage in hardly 3 lakh acres."
"However, there is a big doubt on this figure as well, because thousands of farmers are saying that they got very less compensation, compared to the damage and countless farmers were completely deprived of it," he added.