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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Punjab and Haryana to ensure peace on the volatile issue of sharing of river waters a day after the Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana held protests to demand the immediate construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal in Punjab so that more water could be brought into Haryana.

The court has given a deadline of two months to the Centre to facilitate an amicable settlement between the two states. Till such time the states were directed to cease protests.

The matter will be heard next on 7 September.

The last time that the Centre intervened in this matter was back in March 1976 when it issued a notification allocating to Haryana 3.5 MAF (million-acre feet) out of undivided Punjab’s 7.2 MAF.

To enable Haryana to use its allocated share, a canal linking the Sutlej with the Yamuna—the SYL canal—was planned, work on which began after a tripartite agreement in December 1981. At the time Punjab agreed to complete construction within two years, following which the states withdrew their petitions from the Supreme Court.

Following a standstill, however, in September 1996 Haryana filed a plea in the Supreme Court, seeking directions for Punjab to complete the canal.

These directions came from the Supreme Court in 2002, with the Centre being told to aid with construction work.

In July 2004, the Punjab assembly passed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, unilaterally terminating the prior tripartite agreement between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to share Ravi-Beas waters. Earlier this year, in February, the apex court passed a seemingly conclusive verdict declaring the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act as unconstitutional, following which several Congress MLAs in Punjab resigned en masse.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amrinder Singh tweeted on Tuesday: “I welcome SC decision to give all of us time to resolve SYL issue, request Centre to facilitate early dialogue."

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