Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2019
Was Harsimrat Badal napping during the cabinet meeting?
- Bir Devinder Singh*
Was Harsimrat Badal napping during the cabinet meeting?



It is shocking that Harsimrat Kaur Badal was busy having forty winks, when the draft of Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2019 was being approved by the Modi cabinet, having far reaching consequences for Punjab . Intriguingly, both the Ministers in Ministry of Jal Shakti belongs to the States, with whom the Punjab is having serious River Water sharing disputes. Mr. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat Cabinet Minister in Ministry of Jal Shakti is from Rajasthan whereas the   Minister of State Mr. Rattan Lal Kataria  in the same ministry is from Haryana.

Although  the objectivity of the legislation is supposed to quicken the pace of resolving the  long pending river water disputes between the States; but the  sudden insalubrious development stoke up grave fear  of  injustice for Punjab,   if  the final  adjudication of inter-state River Water dispute  is done by applying a centralized mechanism as envisaged by the amended legislation. Section 14 of the Principal Act has been introduced in a clandestine manner without taking in to confidence the State of Punjab. Surprisingly, Section 14 of the Principal Act entails;

"14. The Ravi and Beas Water Tribunal constituted prior to the date of commencement of the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Act 2019 shall stand dissolved and the water disputes pending adjudication before it shall stand transferred to the Tribunal”

The appointments of the Chairman, Vice Chairman and members of the Tribunal would lie in centralized domain of the central Government instead of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India as per the earlier arrangement. I wonder why the Central Government has usurped the powers of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India in this piece of legislation. It smacks brazen arbitrariness, with which the Government of India is monopolizing even the judicial powers, in order to adjudicate the tricky and ultra sensitive issue of river water dispute between Punjab and Haryana. The hush-hush manner in which the Modi Government has scrapped Article 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution and stripped off Jammu & Kashmir of its Statehood, has aroused cynical speculation that Punjab could be treated with a similar arbitrary yard stick if do not surrender its river water interests and refuse to fall in line as per the dictates of the BJP. It is atrocious that the award pronounced by the Tribunal constituted under the arrangements of Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Act 2019 cannot be challenged in the Supreme Court at first place .

I am appalled to notice that none out of thirteen Members of Parliament (Lok Sabha) from Punjab, and ironically one of them Mrs. Harsimrat Kaur Badal being Cabinet Minister, including Sukhbir Singh Badal cared to object the draconian clauses of the said legislation, when the aforesaid Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha and passed by the voice vote. River water sharing dispute continue to be  a core issue for the multi-dimensional future of the agrarian State of Punjab but the kind of blatant callousness shown by Punjab MPs in this case speaks volumes of their lack of concern towards the State they represent in Parliament . Thus all the four parties representing Punjab in the Lok Sabha, owes public explanation to the people of Punjab as to why they were slumbering when such an important legislation was tabled on the floor of the house (Lok Sabha)  and the interests of Punjab were being bartered away by the BJP in Parliament.

I am afraid that the Central Government may unleash similar terror by deploying security forces and the Indian Army in a strength that could be much beyond our imagination, in case there is vociferous post award reaction in Punjab and squabbling between the States.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali) demand the change of portfolios of both the incumbent Ministers in the Ministry of Jal Shakti because they will influence the process of adjudication and the proceedings of the Tribunal harming the vital interests of Punjab and thus  favoring their own States.  SAD (Taksali) vehemently oppose the legislation and also condemn the  despicable manner in which the draconian clause referring to Ravi and Beas  water sharing dispute was  arbitrarily and surreptitiously introduced in Parliament.
 
 
 
(*Bir Devinder Singh is Former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha)
 

 


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