Farmers protesting against the three farm laws have damaged more than 1,500 telecommunications towers in Punjab, disrupting services in some pockets, sources said.
Power supply to towers that relay telecom signals was snapped and cables cut in many parts of the state as farmers vented their anger on the infrastructure owned by Jio, the billionaire Mukesh Ambani group, as they saw him as major beneficiaries of the new laws along with infrastructure tycoon Gautam Adani.
Neither Ambani’s Reliance party nor Adani’s companies are interested in the farmers’ procurement of food grains.
“Till yesterday, 1,411 towers were damaged and today the count has gone well past 1,500,”Till yesterday, 1,411 towers were damaged and today the count has gone well past 1,500.
Some bundles of Jio’s fiber cables were also burned in Jalandhar.
In the state, Jio has 9,000 plus towers.
The most common way to damage the telecommunication towers was to cut off the power supply, another source said.
The generator at the tower site was physically taken away in at least one event and reportedly donated to a nearby gurudwara.
Videos have gone viral of Jio workers being assaulted and made to leave.
Telecom networks have been disrupted by the attacks and operators are struggling to sustain services in the absence of law enforcement agency intervention, the source said.
On Friday, the Punjab chief minister called on protesting farmers not to cause inconvenience to the general public with such acts and to continue exhibiting the same restraint as they had shown in their agitation over the past few months.
Sources said that state police have not acted against those damaging telecom towers so far, and in most cases, even FIRs have not been reported.
At least 1,600 towers have been vandalized, according to the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), a recognized body of telecommunications infrastructure providers.
These involve basic infrastructure for connectivity as well.
For over a month now, hundreds of farmers have been protesting at the Delhi border against the three farm laws they see will end up using minimum support price (MSP)-based procurement of farm products such as wheat and paddy.
The government denied the apprehensions, saying that MSP would continue and that the new laws only provide an alternative market for farmers to sell their goods.