Chandigarh: Haryana’s Agriculture Minister Jai Parkash Dalal Sunday asked farmers from the state — who have gone to Delhi to protest against the new farm laws — to get the Narendra Modi government’s nod for the construction of the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal.
The statement is alleged to be an attempt to drive a wedge between the farmers from Punjab and Haryana who are protesting at the state’s border with Delhi.
Addressing a press conference in Gurugram Sunday afternoon, BJP’s Dalal said farmers’ bodies should get a nod for the construction of the SYL Canal, as “this issue is of prime importance to Haryana farmers”.
“It will take only one sentence in the final draft of whatever is decided between the farmers and the government,” said Dalal, adding that the issue of the SYL Canal was more important than anything else for Haryana’s farmers.
“If there is no water (for irrigation), there will be no crop, and if there is no crop, what will the farmers do with MSP?” he asked.
The farmers’ agitation on the borders of the national capital has been ongoing since 27 November, with farmers from Haryana arriving to support the movement that began in Punjab. Apart from gathering at the Singhu and Tikri borders, Haryana’s farmers have also been providing milk and ration supplies to the protesters.
Earlier this week, Sombir Sangwan, Independent MLA from Dadri, withdrew support from the BJP-JJP government over the farmers’ issue, and united the various khap panchayats in Haryana to reach the agitation site. Some khaps have also announced social boycott of some BJP and JJP leaders, while others have banned their entry into villages.
‘Speaking as a farmer, not minister’
The SYL Canal has been a major bone of contention between Punjab and Haryana for almost three decades. It was to be constructed to share river water for irrigation between Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. Haryana has already built its portion of the canal while Punjab is refusing to construct the canal because it says it does not have any water to share with Haryana or Delhi anymore. The issue has witnessed protracted litigation.
Dalal pointed out that the Supreme Court had already decided in Haryana’s favour but the matter was still not resolved. When journalists pointed out that the duty to implement a Supreme Court decision rests with the government and not farmers, Dalal said he was addressing the press conference as a “simple farmer” of the state and not a minister.
“In my district Loharu and many other districts of south Haryana, there is an acute shortage of (irrigation) water. And I would request the farmers and the khaps supporting the agitation to get the SYL matter resolved,” he said.
Dalal refused to answer any subsequent questions, saying he wanted the focus of the press conference to remain on the SYL issue alone.
‘Trying to weaken farmers’ movement’
Former Haryana CM and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda reacted to Dalal’s press conference by saying: “Who is Dalal? He is a small fry in the government. It really doesn’t matter what he says. But he and many others are definitely trying to weaken the farmers’ movement.”
Dalal had recently courted controversy for his remarks about the agitation being supported by foreign powers. He said that Pakistan and China were trying to destabilise the country through the farmers. He even advised the protesting farmers not to block Delhi as it was not “Karachi or Lahore”
Hooda told ThePrint: “The farmers’ agitation is a national protest which is above any political party, religion, caste or regional divisions, and this is a clear attempt to polarise the farmers. Earlier, he had said the farmers’ movement was funded by foreign money and now this.”
He added: “The SYL issue has already been decided by the Supreme Court and reached finality. What is the point of raking it up at this stage?”