Farmers protest: Over 1,500 mobile towers damaged, Captain issues warning
The agitation of farmers took a pernicious turn when protesters started damaging mobile towers to register an objection against Reliance Jio, owned by business tycoon Mukesh Ambani. Till Monday, more than 1,500 towers had been compromised in Punjab, affecting services, and prompting Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to issue a stern warning. He directed police to take action against miscreants. Here's more.
Context: Three laws have put farmers and Centre at odds
Farmers, who have been protesting at the borders of Delhi for nearly a month now, opine that the three agricultural reforms would leave them at the mercy of big corporate players. The Opposition too has supported the fear of farmers and built a narrative that select corporate groups, especially the Ambani and Adani groups, would exploit them. The Centre, meanwhile, has dismissed these concerns.
Protesters burnt fiber cable of Jio, took away generator
Suspecting that their livelihoods will be put at risk, farmers began to vent out their anger on mobile towers (!). There are over 9,000 such towers in Punjab. Protesters cut off the power supply and in some cases, took away the generator. In Jalandhar, bundles of fiber cable of Jio were set on fire. Reports claimed that Jio employees were also threatened.
Earlier, Reliance stores were also attacked
To note, the anger is not just restricted to the mobile towers, even the stores of Reliance were attacked. Last week, protesters, carrying flags of some farmers' organizations, shut down three Reliance stores in Kurukshetra, Haryana. "We will continue our protests at Reliance outlets, fuel stations, and Jio mobile towers until the government accepts our demands," a farmer was quoted by HT.
FIRs haven't been registered in most cases
A source told HT that the incidents have directly affected telecom services. The service providers are also upset by the inaction of the law enforcement agencies. In most cases, FIRs weren't registered. No action was taken against miscreants in the Kurukshetra episode either. On Friday, Captain Singh urged protesters to not damage towers as this affects the students dependent on online classes.
Not against peaceful protests, can't damage property: Captain Singh
However, Captain Singh took a harsher tone against the miscreants on Monday, saying that he would not let the state slip into anarchy. The Congress leader said he hasn't stopped peaceful protests but no one can damage public or private property. Such deeds will not be tolerated, he underlined, while directing the police to take strict action in these incidents.
Moga: Police said farmers not supporting such acts
Punjab: Locals of Ekta Nagar near Moga vandalised a mobile tower in support of farmers protesting against Centre's farm laws, last night. Police say, "We are verifying facts of the incident. The farmers have condemned this act. They are not supporting such actions." pic.twitter.com/rHRm5UUMJU— ANI (@ANI) December 28, 2020
Earlier, Adani group clarified it doesn't procure grains
Facing heat, the Adani group released a statement this month to clarify that it only developed and operated grain silos for the Food Corporation of India (FCI). "The company has no role in deciding the volume of storage as well as pricing of grain as its only a service/ infrastructure provider for the FCI," the port-to-energy conglomerate, whose name echoed in the agitation, tweeted.
Meanwhile, Centre invited farmers for another round of dialogue
Yesterday, the federal government invited farmers for another round of talks, hoping to break the impasse. The meeting is scheduled for 2 pm, tomorrow. "[Wednesday's] meeting will discuss the laws related to all three new agrarian reforms, the existing system of MSP (Minimum Support Price), Central Electricity Bill and the Commission Ordinance brought for pollution," a senior official told NDTV.