Telecom services are hit in some pockets in Punjab as over 1,500 mobile towers, mostly those belonging to Reliance Jio, have been affected by farmers protesting against new agri laws. They’ve snapped power supply to the towers and cables in several parts of the states.
Firms owned by billionaires Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani do not procure foodgrains from farmers, but the protesters are of the view that the new laws are to benefit corporates like them, due to which infrastructure owned by them are being attacked by the farmers.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Monday that 1,561 mobile towers have been “impacted” in the state during the farmers’ stir against the agri laws and directed the police to take strict action against vandalisation and disruption of telecom services.
#WATCH Villagers of Tibbi Kalan in Punjab's Firozpur vandalise a telecom tower to express their support towards farmers protesting against the three farm bills pic.twitter.com/sCWMYiU0Kq
— ANI (@ANI) December 28, 2020
“Till yesterday, 1,411 towers were damaged and the count has gone well past 1,500 today,” a source with knowledge of the matter said.
Sources said the most common way of damaging telecom towers was to cut off the power supply. In one case, the generator at a tower site was physically taken away and allegedly donated to a gurudwara. In Jalandhar, some bundles of Jio’s fibre cable were also burnt.
Videos of Jio employees being threatened and made to flee have gone viral. The attacks have impacted telecom services and the operators are struggling to maintain services in absence of action by law enforcement agencies, sources added.
Meanwhile, Amarinder Singh asserted on Monday he’ll not let Punjab plunge into anarchy at any cost and nobody can be allowed to take law into their hands. He said the general public including students, professionals working from home and banking services would suffer the most if the mobile services were disrupted.
He warned that the use of violence could alienate the protestors from the masses which would be detrimental to the interests of the farming community.
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So far, no action has been taken by the state police against those damaging telecom towers and in most cases even FIRs have not been registered, sources said.
A total of 1,561 mobile towers have been impacted in the state, said an official statement. The state has a total of 21,306 mobile towers spread across its 22 districts, including 9,000 plus belonging to Reliance Jio.
According to the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), a registered body of telecom infrastructure providers, at least 1,600 towers have been vandalised, including common access infrastructure as well.
Out of the total towers impacted, 25 had been damaged, allegedly by some farmers and their supporters in violation of the directions given by farmers’ unions to keep the protests against the farm laws peaceful.
Hundreds of farmers have been protesting at Delhi borders for over a month now against the three farm laws which they see would user in end to minimum support price (MSP) based procurement of farm produce like wheat and paddy.
The government has denied the apprehensions, saying MSP will continue and the new laws only provide farmers an alternative market to sell their produce.
(With inputs from agencies)