Telecom operator Reliance Jio saw a decline in its wireless subscriber base in December in the states of Punjab and Haryana, the latest monthly subscription data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, showed on Thursday.

In what might be seen as an effect of the farmers’ protest, Jio lost over 15 lakh subscribers in Punjab, as its number of customers in the state reduced from over 1.4 crore in November 2020 to less than 1.25 crore in December, the data showed. Similarly, in Haryana, its subscriber base fell from 94.48 lakh in November to 89.07 lakh in December. In total, the company lost more than 20 lakh subscribers across the two states.

Farmers from the two northern states have been at the forefront of the protests against the new agriculture laws, introduced by the Centre in September. The protestors, who have been agitating since November, believe that the new laws will aid big corporate houses like Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, Jio’s parent company.

As far as the total number of wireless subscribers in the country is concerned, it declined from 115.52 crore in November to 115.37 crore in December. Jio, in fact, gained over 4.78 lakh new customers, while rival Bharti Airtel added more than 40 lakh users. Another major player, Vodafone-Idea, lost nearly 57 lakh customers.

The dip in Reliance Jio’s subscriber base in December in Punjab, is the only month other than December 2019 when the company witnessed a decrease, according to The Indian Express. In case of Haryana, the telecom firm has never witnessed a fall in numbers since its launch in September 2016.

Earlier in December, reports had suggested that as many as 1,500 Jio mobile towers were vandalised allegedly by those protesting against the new farm laws, amid concerns that the reforms will lead to corporate exploitation of the farmers. Farmers’ organisations had, however, denied any involvement with the attacks and asked people not to resort to such acts.

Then in January, Reliance Industries Limited had filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking government intervention into the matter. The company, in its petition, claimed that Reliance has no plans to enter the contract farming business, one of the provisions under the farm laws. The petition also said that the company, which is into retail business as well, 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.