Monday, January 30, 2023

Telecommunications towers vandalized as Indian farmers continue protests | Agriculture News

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More than 1,500 towers were attacked in the state of Punjab as anger grew against companies seen as beneficiaries of the new agricultural laws.

More than 1,500 telephone towers have been vandalized in the northern Indian state of Punjab, where farmers have led an increasingly angry campaign against government farm reforms, people said. responsible.

The action came as tens of thousands of farmers marked more than a month of protests on main roads leading to the capital, New Delhi, against new farm bills passed in September.

Peasant leaders say the new laws will lead to a corporate takeover of agricultural activity and have called for a boycott of groups such as Reliance, which owns the telecommunications towers, and Adani – a major player in agro -industry – the two farmer companies believe they have profited from the new laws at their expense.

They also fear that the government will gradually withdraw the minimum support price – the price at which the government buys agricultural products.

Farmer union leaders, however, have denied any role in the action against the telecommunications towers in the state of Punjab, the agricultural heartland of India and known as ‘India’s grain bowl’.

Farmers carry placards at a site of a protest at the Singhu border near New Delhi [File: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

The towers had power supplies and fiber cables cut off while some had their generators stolen, officials said.

A source close to Jio, Reliance’s mobile phone company, said more than 1,400 towers had been vandalized as of Sunday. A telecommunications industry official said at least 150 more were damaged on Monday.

Videos showing Jio employees kicked out of towers have been widely shared on social media.

The office of the Chief Minister of Punjab, Amarinder Singh, said more than 1,500 communication masts have been damaged or their power cut in recent days.

“The use of violence could distance protesters from the masses, which would be detrimental to the interests of the farming community,” Singh said in the statement.

Boycott calls taken into account

Reliance, which is owned by Asia’s richest person Mukesh Ambani, did not comment on the vandalism. But mobile phone services have been hit in Punjab, which has 9,000 towers in all.

Protesters also blocked off one of Punjab’s largest cooking oil depots owned by Adani’s subsidiary, Fortune, in the town of Amritsar, Punjab.

Davinder Singh, a farmer who took part in a protest in Amritsar on Monday, told the AFP news agency that calls for a boycott were increasingly followed.

“We are with our fellow farmers who are demonstrating at the Delhi borders. We called on people to boycott Jio and Adani.

“People have heard us. A lot of people have cut their Jio connections, ”he said.

Farmers have taken several kilometers of key roads leading to New Delhi, demanding that the government repeal the new laws, but the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi insists they aim to invest in a dying agricultural sector plagued by a low productivity.

The government says the new changes, which will allow farmers to sell their produce on open markets, are helping to increase farm incomes in a sector whose contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has gradually declined over the years.

India’s agricultural sector employs more than half of India’s 1.4 billion people, but contributes only 15% to the country’s $ 2.7 trillion economy. The sector is facing a crisis, pushing thousands of indebted farmers to commit suicide.

Farmers say the three farm laws passed by the right-wing Modi government will hurt their livelihoods and only benefit big business.

A new round of talks between union leaders and the government is due to take place on Wednesday. But protesters have vowed to step up action if there is no breakthrough.


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