Read Editorial with D2G – Ep CCL (250)


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We conclude with a reminder to the State of Punjab that ‘Great states have a temper superior to that of private litigants (a person involved in a lawsuit), and it is to be hoped that enough has been decided for patriotism, the fraternity (friendship and mutual support within a group) of the Union, and mutual consideration to bring [the matter] to an end”’. Those words from the Supreme Court in 2004 as it ordered Punjab to build the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal, went unheeded (heard or noticed but disregarded). Instead, Punjab passed a law to nullify (make legally null and void; invalidate) the 1981 agreement, forcing the Court once again to remind the state of the Constitution.

Giving its opinion in a presidential reference on the Punjab Termination of Water Sharing Agreements with States 2004, the court said: The Punjab Act is “contrary to the Constitution of India”, and Punjab is not free from its obligation to uphold the 2002 and 2004 Supreme Court orders that the SYL canal must be built.

Back in 2004, the court had reminded the Punjab government that it is “the Constitutional duty of those who wield (have and be able to use (power or influence)) power in the States to create the appropriate political climate to ensure a respect for the constitutional processes and not set such processes at naught (nothing) only to gain political mileage.” It is unfortunate that exactly the opposite is happening.

The Punjab government is once again preparing brazenly (shameless or impudent) to ignore the court. The principal opposition party, the Congress, is as defiant (intransigent, resistant, uncooperative). This, of course, is not the only such instance. Three months ago, political parties in Karnataka rallied violently against the court’s order for the release of Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu.

Instead of seeing it as a national resource that needs to be shared, political parties view water as an instrument with which to arouse (evoke or awaken (a feeling, emotion, or response)) chauvinist sentiments, useful for papering over other serious failures. In Punjab, with elections just months away, it will now be a race to the bottom to determine who can be the most selfish and most narrowly provincial.

Pakistan and India did a better job of resolving their water dispute than states within India have done. India was able to secure the unrestricted use of the Ravi, Sutlej and Beas in the Indus Waters Treaty only by making the case that these waters were essential for the irrigation of arid (lacking in interest, excitement, or meaning) regions of undivided eastern Punjab, including territory that is now Haryana and Rajasthan.

In one of its orders on the Cauvery row, the SC had said that when a state takes unilateral (affecting only one person, group, or country involved in a situation) steps in its favour in a dispute with another state, “[t]he action forebodes (have a presentiment of (something bad)) evil consequences to the federal structure. it will lead to the breakdown of the constitutional mechanism and affect the unity and integrity (the state of being whole and undivided) of the nation”. Punjab’s political parties must keep this in mind. Punjab is not above the Constitution.