NEW DELHI

'Anti-Punjab' tirade on waters issue decried

CHANDIGARH, AUG 1. Political organisations in Punjab have decried the countrywide tirade that has been initiated against the State after the Assembly passed `The Termination of Agreements Act 2004''.

They argue that after being denied its rights for almost four decades, efforts are on to isolate Punjab by painting it as a "villain'' in the interstate river waters dispute.

The President of an Akali faction and former Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, Ravi Inder Singh, has said that the State Assembly had all legislative powers, within the purview of the constitution, to pass the Act. He said that ongoing shortage of irrigation borne out of the failure of the monsoons had vindicated the stance adopted by the State Government that Punjab had no more waters in its rivers to spare for other States.

With ground water receding fast, Punjab's farm sector had become more dependant on river waters for basic survival.

Seeking the attention of those who were engaged in painting Punjab as a villain, Mr Singh pointed out that clause 5 of the Act had for the first time in history assured the continuation of the present usage and there was no scope of reduction.

Meanwhile, a senior Punjab Minister, who preferred anonymity, cautioned the party leadership against falling to the vilification campaign. He said that for the first time since `Operation Bluestar' in 1984, the Congress in Punjab had gained the confidence of the people of rural Punjab, especially the peasantry through the legislation.

He said that any attempt to effect a leadership change at this crucial juncture was fraught with the danger of the party Chief, Sonia Gandhi, losing the hard earned goodwill from the Sikh community. Noted commentator, S.S. Dosanjh, expressed surprise over the double standards being followed in the country. He said that it was unfortunate that while Punjab's decision to legislate through democratic means was being termed as a threat to the fabric of the country, the acts in the past when Haryana stopped water supply to Delhi and Karnataka doing the same for Tamil Nadu, the issues were taken it the routine stride. .

The General Secretary of the Dal Khalsa, a radical Sikh organisation, Kanwarpal Singh, was of the opinion that an "anti-Punjab, particularly anti-Sikh'' mindset was responsible for the present hue and cry over the river waters controversy.

He said that a dominant section of the leadership in the "so called'' national parties, was committed to engage the Sikhs in Punjab in some controversy to divert their attention from the real issues concerning the development of Punjab.

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