Reliance Industries approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court today pleading that the government safeguard its assets and services in the two states against “miscreants” who had damaged several of its telecom towers some days ago. The installations were vandalised allegedly by farmers angry over the company’s perceived role in framing three agricultural laws recently passed by Parliament.
They vented their anger by snapping power supply, cutting cables of telecom towers, and damaging Reliance Jio’s infrastructure. The culprits apparently viewed the Mukesh Ambani-owned firm as one of the major beneficiaries of the farm laws passed in September. Thousands of farmers have been protesting for over a month against these laws which they feel are detrimental to their long-term interests.
Over 1,500 of Reliance Jio’s 9,000 telecom towers in Punjab alone were put out of action in December. A company representative had told NDTV that the towers had taken a hit due to physical damage, power disruption or theft of generators.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had issued a stern warning against such vandalism, asking the police to act strictly in such cases. However, no cases have been filed in this connection so far, let alone arrests being made.
RIL, through Reliance Jio Infocomm, moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court today, seeking urgent government intervention to “bring a complete stop to the illegal acts of vandalism by miscreants”, a statement issued by RIL said. While thanking authorities for their action against miscreants so far, it “sought punitive and deterrent action against miscreants and vested interests”.
“These acts of violence have endangered the lives of thousands of its employees and caused damage and disruption to the vital communications infrastructure, sales and service outlets run by its subsidiaries in the two states,” the statement said. “The miscreants indulging in vandalism have been instigated and aided by vested interests and our business rivals.”
According to the company, these vested interests were taking advantage of the farmers’ agitation to launch an “incessant, malicious, and motivated vilification campaign against Reliance”.
The company said it had nothing to do with the farm laws since it has no interest in corporate or contract farming – a key contention of the agitating farmers.
“Reliance Retail, Reliance Jio Infocomm, or any other affiliate of our parent company, ie, Reliance Industries have not done any ‘corporate’ or ‘contract’ farming in the past, and have absolutely no plans to enter this business,” the statement said, also denying any purchase of land in Punjab or Haryana with that purpose in mind. “We at Reliance have immense gratitude and the greatest respect for India’s kisans, who are the ‘anna data‘ of 1.3 billion Indians.”
The RIL statement came on a day the government was scheduled to hold talks again with the protesting farmers in New Delhi.