‘Chandigarh belongs to Punjab’: Amarinder Singh to Manohar Lal Khattar

Amarinder Singh and Manohar Lal Khattar.

Chandigarh (PTI): Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday rejected his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar’s suggestion to set up a special body for development of Chandigarh, the joint capital of the two states, saying the city “indisputably belonged to Punjab”.

Khattar had on Monday impressed upon the Centre the need and urgency to create a statutorily, empowered and dedicated board or authority for homogeneous development of the Union Territory and its adjoining towns of Panchkula and Mohali, the region popularly known as the tri-city.

He had said he would separately take up this proposal with Amarinder Singh and the Chandigarh Union Territory Administrator, V P Singh Badnore, who is also the Governor of Punjab.

“Chandigarh indisputably belonged to Punjab,” Amarinder Singh asserted on Tuesday as he rejected Khattar’s suggestion. “There was no question of agreeing to Khattar’s proposal.”

The Punjab chief minister was responding to questions at an event here.

Amarinder Singh asserted that Punjab, being the only state without a capital, had a historical right over Chandigarh. Various accords in the past had given Chandigarh to Punjab but they were, unfortunately, not implemented, he added.

Asserting that Punjab needed a capital city, he pointed out that it was possibly the only state in the world without its own capital.

He said that Haryana being a new state should be assisted to set up its own capital, and Chandigarh should be given to Punjab.

Haryana was carved out of Punjab on November 1, 1966.

Reiterating Haryana’s claim over Chandigarh, Khattar asked Punjab to make New Chandigarh its capital and co-operate on solving the waters issue through dialogue.

Khattar was also speaking at the same event later.

Both Haryana and Punjab should co-operate with to resolve various inter-state water issues in the interest of people of the two states.

Punjab should not make it a prestige issue, he said, adding issues related to water between the states can be solved through dialogue.

“I did not like to refer to the waters issue on this platform as the development of tri-city was the main focus of today’s panel discussion but the remarks made earlier by the Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, have forced me to make a comment on this,” he said.

While describing Punjab as an elder brother of Haryana, Khattar said his state faced serious water crisis as compared to Punjab. More area under the dark zone fall in Haryana than in Punjab, and, at some places, the underground water level has gone down to 1,500 feet, he claimed.

Badnore said while there was already coordination between the two states and the UT on certain issues, the same could be enhanced by strengthening his Advisory Council with more people drawn from Mohali and Panchkula.

The Punjab Chief Minister asserted that territorial and water issues between the two states would have to be addressed before other matters could be taken up.

“Water was critical for Punjab, whose ground water levels were fast depleting,” he said, adding that Haryana had more water despite having only 40 per cent of the total landmass of the two states.

“Punjab was divided by the Akalis for their political gains,” Amarinder Singh said.

He also rejected suggestion of making the Panjab University a central university, while simultaneously dismissing Khattar’s offer of contributing to its running.

The Punjab Chief Minister brought up the issue of Chandigarh Union Territory raising its own cadre, thus eroding Punjab’s 60 per cent share in administration.

Responding to his concern, the Governor offered to order an audit of the employees in Chandigarh to ensure that the 60:40 ratio between Punjab and Haryana is maintained.

Advocating more cooperation between the two states in areas of mutual interest, the governor mooted the establishment of an India International Centre-like setup in Chandigarh.