The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday issued notices to the Punjab government and the Centre on a petition filed by Reliance Jio Infocomm, telecom arm of Reliance Industries, seeking action against damage to its infrastructure in the state, PTI reported.
On Monday, the company had approached the High Court and sought the intervention of government authorities after more than 1,500 of its mobile towers and other telecom gear were vandalised in December, allegedly by supporters of the farmers’ agitation against the new agriculture laws. The farmers’ organisations had, however, denied any involvement with the attacks and asked people not to resort to such acts.
In its petition, Reliance submitted that the attacks on its towers were aided by “vested interests and business rivals”. It said the company had not done any corporate or contract farming in the past, and had absolutely no plans to enter this business. The farm laws have led to apprehensions of corporate exploitation of farmers and the Mukesh Ambani-owned firm is seen as one of the major beneficiaries
Reliance said that its subscribers were forced to port to other networks, while its employees were subjected to threat to life and forcibly prevented from serving subscribers in Punjab. A number of its centres and stores were also forcibly closed by miscreants by using illegal force and intimidation, besides the damage to mobile towers, the company said.
It sought response from the Punjab government, Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Department of Telecommunications and the Punjab Director General of Police. The company also asked the respondents to investigate the attacks, which it said were part of a “well-orchestrated and sustained disinformation campaign”.
Justice Sudhir Mittal, who was hearing the plea, issued a notice of motion to the respondents for February 8, according to PTI.
In a statement issued on Monday, Reliance asserted that it does not buy food grains directly from the farmers and urged 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.