Punjab’s Claim On Chandigarh
The longstanding dispute between Punjab and Haryana over Chandigarh flared up after the Centre notified Central Service Rules for employees in the Union Territory instead of the Punjab Service Rules. The Centre had earlier tweaked rules for appointments to the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) — recruitments can now be done from anywhere in India, instead of just Punjab and Haryana. The Punjab Assembly in a special session passed a unanimous resolution reiterating the state’s claim on Chandigarh.
The Union Territory employees are currently working under the Punjab service rules. The move will benefit them in a "big way", as their retirement age will increase from 58 to 60 years, and women employees will get childcare leave of two years instead of the current one year. The age of recruitment changes from 18-37 years to 18-27 years, which some unions have termed as reduction in job opportunities. Chandigarh Administration has always been managed by the officers of Punjab and Haryana in the ratio of 60:40. Most UT employee unions, particularly teachers and nurses, have welcomed the move, but some have argued against it. The shift in rules does not cover the around 20,000 outsourced and contractual employees, eliciting criticism from them. However, recently Central Government has posted outside officers to Chandigarh and has introduced Central Civil Service Rules for the employees of Chandigarh Administration, which goes completely against the understanding in the past.
Reacting sharply over the development, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that Chandigarh is and will remain the capital of Haryana and Punjab. Haryana politicians say that Chandigarh was part of the Ambala district and is an inseparable part of Haryana. Interestingly, it is not just Punjab and Haryana but Himachal Pradesh as well that has been claiming its share of Chandigarh on the basis of a Supreme Court judgment delivered on September 27, 2011. The order stated that Himachal Pradesh was entitled to get 7.19% of Chandigarh’s land on the basis of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966.
After Partition, Shimla was made the temporary capital of Indian Punjab. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted a modern city to replace Lahore as Punjab’s capital, and the idea of Chandigarh was conceived. In March 1948, the Punjab government, in consultation with the Centre, chose the picturesque foothills of the Shivaliks as the site of the new capital. Twenty-two villages in Kharar were acquired for the city, and the government compensated their displaced residents. The capital was officially moved from Shimla to Chandigarh on September 21, 1953. President Rajendra Prasad inaugurated the new capital on October 7, 1953. Until Haryana was born, Chandigarh remained the capital of Punjab.
The Punjab Reorganisation Act was passed on September 18, 1966, to provide for the reorganisation of the existing state of Punjab. This act came into existence after the formation of the states of Punjab and Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh and the subsequent transfer of the hill areas to Himachal Pradesh. Successive Punjab governments have been claiming that Chandigarh was an integral part of Punjab. The claim, according to politicians in Punjab, was justified by the Rajiv Longowal Accord of 1985.
The 1970 documents suggest various alternatives including dividing Chandigarh. But that was not practical since it’s a planned city. Haryana was asked to use offices in Chandigarh for five years and was even given a grant of Rs 10 crore to set up its capital. However, it continues its operations from the UT. In 2020, Haryana passed a resolution in the Vidhan Sabha demanding 20 rooms in the complex that have been in the possession of Punjab.
The two states share a common building in the Capitol Complex of Chandigarh city, which houses both their assembly halls.Since the fresh controversy emerged after Amit Shah’s announcement, Harayana, which has a BJP government in power, has remained silent. However, Mann’s resolution is likely to revive the old turf war.
During the ongoing debate, MLAs from the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal said that after this “attack” by the BJP-led Centre, they apprehended that the next attack would be on the waters of Punjab and the state’s riparian rights will be violated. The Centre's decision on extending central civil service rules to Chandigarh employees was not only a violation of the Punjab Reorganisation Act but also that of the Rajiv Gandhi-Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal accord and several subsequent commissions, all of which have held that Punjab has a majority share in Chandigarh administration and that the status of the Union territory was ad-hoc pending transfer to Punjab.