NEW DELHI: Authorities in the northern Indian state of Punjab are investigating whether protesting farmers have blocked the supply of electricity to hundreds of telecom towers, a state official said Monday in the wake of demonstrations over new farm rules.
“A senior official in the Punjab state government said, “We instructed the police to trace all those involved in sabotaging the infrastructure.
A senior Punjab state police official said that many telecommunications towers in the state, primarily operated by Jio, the telecommunications arm of Reliance Industries, were disrupted by the power supply.
A source close to Jio said that as power supplies and fibre to the towers were cut, more than 1,400 of its 9,000 plus towers were impacted, but could not confirm whether farmers were behind the disruption.
At one spot, the source said, some bundles of Jio’s fibre held for laying were also burnt, refusing to be identified as the matter is private.
Jio did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Due to the power supply interruption, at least 1,600 towers were affected in total and about 30 towers were damaged, Tilak Raj Dua, director general of the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), said.
Dua said the organisation was seeking to ascertain which enterprises were threatened and had written to the Punjab police calling for the towers to be secured.
When approached, members of two of the 31 farmers’ unions fighting against the laws denied the claims.
Pending an official announcement from all the unions, they requested to stay unidentified.
In protest against three new laws passed by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tens of thousands of farmers are camping out on highways near the capital of New Delhi that they fear would dismantle controlled agricultural markets, endanger their livelihoods and help big corporations.
However, Modi and his ministers say the legislation would raise the income of farmers as it directly connects prospective bulk buyers such as WalMart Inc, Reliance Industries Ltd and Adani Enterprises Ltd with farmers, bypassing wholesale markets and commission agents.
Punjab’s state government is opposed to the new farm laws and a seventh round of talks between farmer unions and federal government officials is scheduled on Tuesday.