More than 1,500 telecom towers in Punjab have been damaged by farmers protesting against the three farm laws, disrupting services in some pockets, sources said.
Power supply to towers that relay telecom signals was snapped and cables cut in several parts of the state as farmers vented their anger on the infrastructure owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s firm Jio as they saw him along with infrastructure tycoon Gautam Adani as major beneficiaries of the new laws.
Neither Ambani’s Reliance group nor Adani’s companies are into the business of procuring foodgrains from farmers.
“Till yesterday, 1,411 towers were damaged and today the count has gone well past 1,500,” a source with knowledge of the matter said.
In Jalandhar, some bundles of Jio’s fibre cable were also burnt.
Jio has 9,000 plus towers in the state.
Another source said the most common way of damaging the telecom towers was to cut off the power supply.
In at least one case, the generator at a tower site was physically taken away and allegedly donated to a local gurudwara.
Videos of Jio employees being threatened and made to flee have gone viral.
The attacks have impacted telecom services and operators are struggling to maintain services in absence of action by law enforcement agencies, the source said.
The Punjab chief minister had on Friday appealed to protesting farmers to not cause inconvenience to the general public with such actions and continue to exercise the same restraint as they had shown over the past several months of their agitation.
Sources said state police have so far not acted against those damaging telecom towers and even FIRs have not been registered in most cases.
According to the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), a registered body of telecom infrastructure providers, at least 1,600 towers have been vandalised.
These include common access infrastructure as well.
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.