River of discontent

Aditi Nigam | Updated on January 20, 2018

BL21_THINK1_FTV   -  The HIndu

Politics around water can be petty, absurd and dangerous

Political parties may cry hoarse over ‘national unity’ and extol the greatness of ‘Bharat Mata’ for whom all her children are ‘one’. But when it comes to a simple life-saving resource — water — it takes little to pull out the knives and get at each other’s throats; be it Cauvery, Krishna, Narmada or the latest Ravi-Beas fracas. The Punjab Assembly last week passed a resolution moved by the Akali Dal-BJP government that “the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal will not be constructed at any cost.” With assembly polls approaching, this move may lift Shiromani Akali Dal’s electoral fortunes.

The Akalis’ audacious defiance of the apex court’s order (it introduced a Bill to denotify the land meant for the canal) has silenced its political rivals — the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). While SAD’s political survival depends on SYL, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s way of dealing with the matter is telling: “ Na rahega baans, na bajegi bansuri” (without bamboo, the flute cannot be played; or no canal, and therefore no question of sharing).

The Akali Dal, a regional force, has forced the State units of two national parties — BJP and Congress — and an aspiring one, AAP, into taking stands that hurt their units in Haryana and Delhi. The BJP runs the government in Haryana and AAP in Delhi, and the former has now threatened to shut off water to the Capital to get even with the latter’s stand on SYL.

With the water table declining in both agrarian States, already reeling under rural distress, the SYL dispute issue was just waiting to explode. Farmers’ suicides in Punjab and the recent violence during the Jat quota agitation are mere manifestations of a bigger crisis. Rather than assess mutual water needs and work out a solution, key political parties in Punjab and Haryana seem more interested in fanning regional sentiments. This is a ploy to divert attention from real issues, such as agrarian distress, lack of jobs and rising prices.

Senior Deputy Editor

Published on March 20, 2016

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