New Delhi: Leading telecom industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which counts Reliance Jio as a core member, has “strongly condemned” the destruction of telecom towers and services in Punjab during the protest against the contentious farm laws.
“While we respect people’s right to protest on any issue, sabotaging the telecom network infrastructure and disrupting telecom services as a form of protest by anyone is strongly condemned,” COAI Director General Lt Gen Dr. S.P. Kochhar said in a statement.
“Telecom services are the lifeline of lakhs of customers, including students taking online classes, professionals working from home, people going in for online health consultations in the tough time of COVID 19. The disruption of telecom services, which are considered “essential” under various enactments, is causing immense inconvenience to the common man for whom the mobile services are so essential,” the statement further said.
In a statement Monday, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said 1,561 mobile towers in Punjab were “impacted” due to farmers targeting telecom infrastructure in protest against the Centre’s farm laws. The CM asked police to act against those vandalising and disrupting telecom services.
“With examinations, especially Board exams, nearing and students dependant on online education amid the Covid pandemic, such communication breakdown could seriously affect their future,” he said.
The telecom towers that were damaged are reportedly owned or operated by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio. According to the report, these towers were allegedly targeted because of speculation that Ambani’s Reliance Industries will benefit from the new farm laws. The company does not procure food grains from farmers.
Of the towers “impacted”, 25 were damaged by farmers and supporters against the orders of the farmer unions organising the protest. Power supply has been disrupted to 32 towers, leading to the services of 114 more towers being discontinued. However, 433 towers have been repaired so far.
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