More than 1,500 of Reliance Jio’s 9,000 telecom towers in Punjab have been put out of action, allegedly by farmers protesting against the farm laws, disrupting service in parts of the state. A representative of the telecom company told NDTV that the towers have taken a hit due to physical damage, power disruption or theft of generator.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh issued a stern warning today against vandalisation of mobile towers and disruption of telecom services in the state, and asked the police to take strict action in such cases.
Over the last week, farmers have been venting anger against Reliance, snapping power supply, cutting cables of telecom towers and damaging infrastructure of the firm owned by Mukesh Ambani, seen as one of the major beneficiaries of the farm laws.
In Jalandhar, some bundles of Jio’s fibre cable were burnt. Videos of Jio employees being threatened and made to flee have been widely circulated.
The state police had not taken action against the perpetrators so far.
But today, the Chief Minister said he would not allow Punjab by plunged into anarchy or tolerate destruction of any private or public property. Pointing out that his government had not objected to, or stopped, peaceful protests in the state, he said damage to property and inconvenience to people will not be tolerated.
Mr Singh also reminded the farmers that such communication breakdown will be costly for students, especially those preparing for Board Exams and professionals working from home due to the Covid outbreak. Even banking services, largely dependent on online transactions now, are taking a major hit, he said.
The farmers have been losing patience as thousands wait on the borders of Delhi, demanding that the Centre scrap the farm laws – a demand the government is not ready to grant.
Several rounds of meeting have been held between the protesters and the Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar and one with his cabinet colleague, Union home minister Amit Shah.
But the deadlock has persisted – a situation the government is now hoping to resolve with another meeting on Wednesday.
The farmers of the country’s grain bowl – Punjab and Haryana – have been hugely upset over the farm laws, which they fear would lead to phasing out of the guaranteed prices offered by the government and allow corporates to exploit them.
The government’s repeated assurances that the laws would help them get better prices for their produce and that the Minimum Support Prices will remain, have not been able to address their concerns.