ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕਾਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ॥ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕੀਫ਼ਤਹਿ ॥
Bhadon is the month of opulence/wealth, where land and rivers are in flood. Panjab is the breadbasket of India. Recent famers’ protests have highlighted its agricultural significance. Crops cannot grow without water, yet the Indian government is looking to divert water away from Panjab. But how and why?
ਪਹਿਲਾ ਪਾਣੀ ਜੀਉ ਹੈ ਜਿਤੁ ਹਰਿਆ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਇ ॥
pahilaa paanee jeeau hai jit hariaa sabh koi ||
First, there is life in the water, by which everything else is made green.
(Ang 472, SGGSJ)
SYL Canal – Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal
The SYL is a proposed 214 km long canal that will split river water between two states, Panjab and Haryana.
In 1966, the state of Haryana was carved out of the former state of Panjab. This new state of Haryana demanded water from the rivers Beas, Ravi and Sutlej be shared. They wanted 4.8 MAF (million acre-feet) of Panjab’s 7.2 MAF. The Haryana portion of the canal finished construction in 1980. Further meetings, agreements and breaches of said agreements were reached, but work on Panjab’s portion of the canal was never completed.
Over the past 50 years, the conflict has continued as no one has managed to find a solution. Even in 2020, Panjab’s Chief Minister Amarinder Singh warned that “Panjab will burn” if it is forced to share water with Haryana.
The recent farmers’ protest, and the release of “SYL” by the recently departed Sidhu Moose Wala, has brought this half-a-century-old dispute back into the limelight.
The main chorus of “SYL” is “ਉਨਾਂ ਚਿਰ ਪਾਣੀ ਛੱਡੋ, ਤੁਪਕਾ ਨਹੀਂ ਦਿੰਦੇ – Ona Chir Paani Chhadoo, Tupka Ni Dende”
He is essentially telling the Indian government to forget about river re-disruption because we won’t even give them a single drop of water. The song as a whole speaks about the devastation of Panjab from an environmental and economic point of view. It is clear that many people feel this is an attack to purposefully bleed Panjab dry.
“Panjab has a history of a thousand years. Panjab has defeated the biggest tyrants of history. Courage is character of its soil and water. That’s why it’s being targeted.”
The Times of India has also reported that water in Panjab contains the highest levels of arsenic found anywhere in India. The WHO (World Health Organisation) states that long-term exposure to arsenic can lead to cancer and skin lesions.
Panjab is the motherland of Sikhs. Given that the 15th of August (Indian Independence Day) is a reminder of the devasting consequences of partition, it is easy to see why many Sikhs believe in this being a wider religious issue. Later in “SYL”, Sidhu Moose Wala goes onto ask for the release of innocent captive Sikhs. Until this is met, not a single drop will be given.
Some argue that the unity between farmers in Panjab and Haryana might allow for an amicable agreement to be made. Although looking unlikely, we will have to wait and see what happens.
ਪਵਣੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਪਾਣੀ ਪਿਤਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਧਰਤਿ ਮਹਤੁ ॥
pavan guroo paanee pitaa maataa dharat mahat ||
Air is the Guru, Water is the Father, and Earth is the Great Mother of all.
ਦਿਵਸੁ ਰਾਤਿ ਦੁਇ ਦਾਈ ਦਾਇਆ ਖੇਲੈ ਸਗਲ ਜਗਤੁ ॥
dhivas raat dhui dhaiee dhaiaa khelai sagal jagat ||
Day and night are each like the nanny and her caregiving husband, in whose lap the whole world is at play.
(Ang 8, SGGSJ)
How farmers’ protest can be the answer to the Satluj-Yamuna Canal dispute (https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/agriculture/amp/how-farmers-protest-can-be-the-answer-to-satluj-yamuna-canal-dispute-75399?fbclid=IwAR2nIZD80CO12Fq8qmZ4QWsAHf-NBWLOfWdnYsEZtNYDy5EVcCI5nISO3mU)
Explained: Why the Punjab CM has warned against restarting SYL canal work (https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-why-punjab-cm-has-warned-against-restarting-syl-canal-work-6561662/)
At 556, Punjab arsenic-affected habitations highest in India (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/at-556-pb-arsenic-affected-habitations-highest-in-india/articleshow/93039361.cms)