Supreme Courts Spoken

Updated: Aug 27 2004, 05:30am hrs
The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to ensure construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal. With this the unseemly spat initiated by Punjab should become a closed chapter.

It is unlikely that Punjab will co-operate even now. But the Union government must ensure that it toes the line.

The Punjab governments review petition of the apex court order stands dismissed. The Manmohan Singh-led government need no longer wait and watch as it has done so far.

Instead, it must send out a strong, unequivocal message to the Punjab CM, Captain Amarinder Singh signalling the Centres intention to honour the judicial verdict.

The Centre must ensure that the construction of the canal is completed. And make it clear that it will not tolerate the CMs us versus them attitude.

While a competitive spirit behoves sport, it does not have any place in resolving sensitive inter-state disputes, especially when it comes to scarce water and other economic resources.

The problem, of course, is that politicians with an eye to the main chance always favour what is politically expedient in the short-term without regard to the long-term cost.

Captain Singh would do well to pause and consider how chief ministers in the south who tried to play on similar sentiments met their comeuppance at the polls.

Scuppering the 1981 river water sharing agreement between his state, Haryana and Rajasthan unilaterally may attract support cutting across party lines. But such decisions are at best, short-termist. And at worst, contrarian to national interest.

Today, the ruckus is over sharing of river waters. Tomorrow, ports may be the subject of a new dispute. Or national highways.

For Indias federal polity, nipping such mini-wars in the bud is a matter of survival. Constitutionally too, no economic resource natural or man-made is the sole property of a single state.

As elected representatives of the Indian people, our political leaders are expected to remember these ground realities. Should they choose to forget them, India has a judiciary tasked with upholding the Constitution.

The optimists that we are, we hope that such sticks will be brandished occasionally. And that our leaders discover a new-found maturity and far-sightedness.