Reliance Industries Limited on Monday filed petitions in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, seeking government intervention into several cases of vandalisation of cell phone towers of its telecom arm, Reliance Jio, allegedly by supporters of the ongoing farmers’ protest.
In an exchange filing submitted by the company on Monday, Reliance Industries said the petitions submit that the conglomerate has nothing to benefit from the newly-introduced farm laws and those involved in the acts of vandalism were aided by “vested interests and business rivals”.
The company, in its petition, said Reliance has no plans to enter the contract farming business, one of the provisions under the farm laws. “Reliance Industries Limited have not done any corporate or contract farming in the past, and have absolutely no plans to enter this business,” it said. Reliance further said that the company and its subsidiaries have not bought any agricultural land in India for contract farming, and did not intend to do so.
The petition also assured that the company will insist on its suppliers to procure produce from farmers at the Minimum Support Price. Protesting farmers have demanded to make procurement at MSP a legal provision. While, several Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi have assured that the MSP regime will not be done away with under the new laws, the Centre has not yet agreed to make it a legal provision. The MSP is the rate at which the government buys farm produce, and is based on a calculation of at least one and a half times the cost of production incurred by farmers.
Reliance’s move came days after reports emerged that as many as 1,500 mobile towers of Jio were vandalised in December by those allegedly protesting against the new farm laws, amid concerns that the reforms will lead to corporate exploitation of the farmers. Reliance Industries chairperson Mukesh Ambani was seen as one of the major beneficiaries of the farm laws. The farmers’ organisations had, however, denied any involvement with the attacks and asked people not to resort to such acts.
In its petition on Monday, Reliance sought to defend its retail arm, Reliance Retail, against the outrage. The petition suggested that it only acts as a retail chain, selling brands belonging to independent manufacturers and suppliers and does not buy food grains directly from the farmers.
“It [Reliance Retail] has never entered into long-term procurement contracts to gain unfair advantage over farmers or sought that its suppliers buy from farmers at less than remunerative prices, nor will it ever do so,” the company said.