Will July 12 go down in history as the day the Water War between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan was triggered off? When the Punjab assembly passed the controversial Punjab Terminations of Agreements Bill 2004 on July 12, which became an Act the same day after it was endorsed by governor O.P. Verma, it effectively annulled all previous agreements pertaining to the sharing of the Ravi-Beas waters with Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi. It also cocked a snook at the June 4 Supreme Court ruling which directed that the Centre take up the construction of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal since the Punjab government had failed to construct it within one year as directed by an earlier order of 2002. The construction of the canal, which would take a proportionate share of the water to Haryana, was to be handed over to the Central Public Works Department on July 15.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh pushed the bill through fully aware that he would stand accused of setting an unhealthy precedent of using the legislature to subvert rulings of the Supreme Court. According to sources, the CM also knew that his move would come as an embarrassment for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, which is why he kept the party high command and the pmo in the dark about the bill. As things stand now, the Opposition has been given an issue to raise in Parliament and a cornered government has filed a fresh application in the Supreme Court seeking fresh directions on the construction of the canal.