Chandigarh, Punjab: Punjab incurred an expenditure of Rs 80,000 crore while supplying one crore acre feet of free canal water to Rajasthan besides depleting its own resources continuously for 40 years now, says Pritam Singh Kumedan, a retired civil servant and expert on rivers water distribution.
Besides the huge expenditure in supplying free water to Rajasthan, he says, the state has to extract this much extra ground water for its own use, affecting the fertility of its land.
There are more than 13 lakh power and diesel-operated tube wells in Punjab that pump out about 2.50 crore acre feet of water every year. The electricity consumed by these tube wells annually is more than 1,000 crore units. The value of this electricity at Rs 2.50 per unit comes to about Rs 2,600 crore.
However, since Punjab purchases electricity from other states for Rs 7 to Rs 8 per unit, power used to energise these tube wells costs more than Rs 7,000 crore. Diesel-operated tube wells cost four to five times more.
Owing to the shortage of electricity many farmers use generators as well. Even if the cost of power were taken to be Rs 5 per unit, 1,000 crore units of electricity would cost Rs 5,000 crore.
Since Punjab is supplying one crore acre feet of canal water to Rajasthan every year, it has to use 400 crore units of electricity worth Rs 2,000 crore for extracting this much ground water.
The total amount spent by Punjab for pumping out 40 crore acre feet of water during the past 40 years would thus come to Rs 80,000 crore.
Had Punjab used its river waters, there was no need to extract this much ground water.
This annual loss of 400 crore units of electricity is all due to free canal water to Rajasthan.
Punjab would have become the top-most industrial state of the country if it had used this additional 400 crore units of electricity (free of subsidies) for its industry, says Kumedan.
He adds that a decision taken on January 29, 1955, to build the Rajasthan canal could not be treated as an “agreement” between Punjab and Rajasthan. Incidentally, the proceedings are marked “secret” and intriguingly even the present Punjab Council of Ministers, the media and even the people of Punjab were not aware of it.
Rajasthan, being a non-riparian state, has no legal right or any share of the waters of the Ravi or the Beas.
It was decided by the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal that non-riparian Rajasthan had no right even in the Narmada waters.
Even if, for the sake of argument, decisions of the 1955 meeting were admitted to be an “agreement”, it is a void agreement as Punjab, being the sole owner of the waters of the Ravi and the Beas, did not get anything in lieu of the water supplied to Rajasthan. Section 25 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, says an “agreement without consideration is void”, concludes Kumedan.