With the Apex Court setting September 3 as deadline for Punjab, Haryana, and the Centre to resolve the contentious Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue mutually, the Chief Ministers of the two neighbouring states met on Friday. However, the meeting was not to discuss the SYL, but to come together to combat the drug menace.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar, in their half-an-hour long meeting at the latter’s office, discussed the greater coordination in the battle against drugs, besides agreeing to hold an inter-state meeting of all the northern states on July 25 which will be hosted by Punjab this time.
Khattar agreed to attend the next meeting for evolving an effective mechanism to deal with this long standing problem.
Both the leaders also resolved to take stringent measures to eliminate the drugs problem among youth and to free them from its clutches to give a bright future.
Besides Haryana and Punjab, the chief ministers of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Delhi, as well as the Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Delhi Lieutenant Governor and Chandigarh Administrator are also expected to join the second inter-state meeting on drugs, said an official spokesperson.
The first meeting was held in April last year and the northern states had then decided to set up a centralised secretariat at Panchkula (Haryana) with nodal officers from each state to be deputed there for intelligence and information sharing. The states had also agreed on a more proactive campaign to fight drugs on a joint platform, with faster sharing of information on drug trends, cases registered and persons identified or arrested.
After his meeting with Khattar, Capt Amarinder said that Punjab Government was committed to the total elimination of drugs, which were being smuggled into Punjab from across the borders, not just from Pakistan but also from within the country, especially Kashmir. He reiterated his government’s zero tolerance policy against drugs.
Khattar informed Capt Amarinder that though the problem of drug is not as alarming in Haryana as it is in Punjab, yet the State Government has taken several steps for its prevention and also to make aware the youth about its ill effects.
“To channelize the energy of youth in the right direction, as many as 1000 yog and vyamshalas have been set up in the State. Apart from this, ‘Raahgiri’ programmes are also organized on district headquarters at regular level to ensure active participation of people of all walks of life,” he said.
Khattar said that Raahgiri programme was not only a stress-buster for the people, but it also provides a good platform to the youth and artistes to showcase their talent. A grant of Rs five lakh is provided to the districts organising ‘Raahgiri’ programmes regularly, he added.
‘SYL NOT DISCUSSED’
At the same time, it was speculated that the two leaders had also discussed the SYL issue, a long pending controversial issue between the two sister states. However, the officials, bith from Punjab and Haryana, have categorically denied maintaining that SYL was not even mentioned during the meeting.
The Supreme Court, in its latest order, had fixed September 3 as the next date of hearing while directing the two states and the Centre to convene a meeting and find an amicable solution to the issue before the next hearing.
In the light of the same, it was expected that the Chief Ministers of the two states may soon hold a meeting to resolve the SYL issue in near future, especially a day after Capt Amarinder welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision maintaining that “talks are the only way to resolve the issue, which threatened to plunge Punjab into a major environmental disaster”.
He had expressed hope that the Supreme Court’s directive, on the formation of a committee of officers by Punjab and Haryana, “would lead to a long-term, just and equitable solution to the vexed SYL problem in the backdrop of the worsening water situation in the State”.
Notably, the SYL issue had been lingering on since the Supreme Court in July 2017 asked Punjab to first build the canal before bringing their respective points of view and challenges on the vexed issue.
The Apex Court had since maintained that the orders passed by it on the SYL canal issue have to be “respected and executed” by the governments of Punjab and Haryana.
Haryana Government, the previous year, had moved the Supreme Court seeking an early resolution to the SYL row.
On November 11, 2016, the Supreme Court had declared the Punjab Government’s termination of water sharing acts of 2004, abrogating the December 1981 inter-state agreement on the SYL canal with Haryana and Rajasthan, as ‘unconstitutional’ while directing the Centre to mobilise a central agency to take control of the canal works immediately and complete it expeditiously.
Soon after, the then SAD-BJP government in Punjab had de-notified the land and even returned Haryana’s share making it clear that it could not share even a single drop of water. Following this, the Haryana Government had then moved the Supreme Court that then stayed the Punjab government proceedings.