Farmer protesters damage telecom towers in Punjab; source outside support
04 January 2021
Protesters from Punjab and Haryana and their sympathisers demonstrating in the name of farmers continue to target telecom towers, especially those belonging to Reliance Jio Infocomm, whom the protesters claim are bent on usurping the rights of APMCs.
Reports say the protesters and their sympathisers have already damaged dozens of telecom towers in Punjab, ignoring the state government order to crackdown on those vandalising telecommunication masts.
Power supply to towers belonging to Reliance Jio was snapped and cables cut in parts of the state as farmers vented their anger on the infrastructure owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s firm.
The protestors say Ambani’s Reliance group and infrastructure tycoon Gautam Adani are major beneficiaries of the three new farm laws, although neither Ambani’s Reliance group nor Adani’s companies are in the business of procuring food grains from farmers.
Reports citing sources with knowledge of the matter said as many as 63 towers were damaged in places such as Amritsar, Bhatinda, Chandigarh, Firozpur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Pathankot, Patiala and Sangrur, across the state on Tuesday.
Jio said they repaired some of the towers that were damaged over the past few days, adding that 826 sites were down as of Tuesday afternoon. Jio has more than 9,000 towers in the state.
Chief minister Amarinder Singh on Monday asked police to take action against vandalisers. The “use of violence could alienate the protesters from the masses, which would be detrimental to the interests of the farming community,” he said in a statement.
The chief minister said he will not let Punjab plunge into anarchy at any cost and that nobody will be allowed to take law into their hands.
Terming telecom services as “lifeline” for lakhs of customers, industry body COAI’s director-general SP Kochhar said disruption of telecom services is causing immense inconvenience to the common man, for whom mobile services are “essential”.
“While we respect people’s right to protest on any issue, sabotaging the telecom network infrastructure and disrupting telecom services as a form of protest by anyone is strongly condemned,” COAI said in a statement.
Meanwhile, protesters at Singhu border has got strengthened as non-farmers claiming to be street vendors (who sell vegetables and fruits in streets) reached the dharna site to show solidarity with the protesting farmers.
Shaktiman Ghosh, who claims to be the all-India general secretary of National Hawker Federation from Kolkata, said that they have come to extend support to the protesters.
Sheikh Salman of National Hawker Federation (NHF) from Telangana, said 600-700 members, including women, have come to Singhu border to extend support to the protesting farmers.
Mohit Valecha, national president, youth wing NHF, said that members from places like Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune, Mumbai, Kadappa and Visakhapatnam have reached Singhu border.