Protesting farmers snap power supply to Jio towers in Punjab

New Delhi: Amid the protests by farmers against three farm laws passed by the Parliament of India this year, farmers in Punjab have started disconnecting the power supply to Jio mobile towers disrupting the telecom giant’s services in several parts of the state following protests outside the petrol pumps and retail outlets of Reliance.

According to a report by The Indian Express, farmers owing allegiance to different farmers’ union have shut the power supply to several Jio towers in Nawanshahr, Ferozepur, Mansa, Barnala, Fazilka, Patiala and Moga districts in last three days.

In Ferozepur, the report said, power supply to the cellular transmission towers was cut by farmers separately under the banner of BKU (Ugrahan) and BKU (Dakaunda).

“We disconnected the power supply to five Jio mobile towers in Ferozepur. We did this to lodge our protest. Our fight is against the corporate houses,” the report quoted BKU (Dakaunda) leader Darshan Singh Karhma as having said.

Quoting BKU (Ugrahan)’s Gora Singh Bhainibagha confirming the incident, the report said that they cut the power connection to four mobile towers in Mansa on Wednesday and on Thursday, staged dharna outside Jio offices.

In Nawanshahr, farmers under the banner of Kirti Kisan Union (KKU) disconnected power supply to 11 Jio mobile towers.

The report quoting KKU leader Master Bhupinder Singh Wariach said: “These black laws have been made to benefit the corporates, hence we are lodging our protest as the government is not ready to listen to us at all”.

In most of the villages in Barnala and Bathinda, farmers locked the gates of towers after snapping the power supply.

The report further quoted Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan ) saying that they have been protesting against the corporates sector ever since the Centre came up with the three farm ordinances.

“First we sat outside petrol pumps of Reliance and ESSAR. Then we protested outside the Reliance malls and stores. We lifted our dharna from the dealer-based petrol pumps of these firms but we are still protesting at the company-owned pumps. Next, our call was to boycott Jio cellular service as part of which farmers ported out their numbers and have now disconnected the power supply to mobile towers,” the report quoted Kokrikalan as saying.

Pertinently, anger against the GoI has been simmering since the month of September when the parliament of India passed three farm laws. From last many weeks, thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have been marching toward the New Delhi and are nearing the borders.

After failing to garner support from their respective state governments, the farmers have decided to mount pressure on the GoI, due to which they are coming to Delhi.

In UP and Haryana, BJP led governments have failed to convince farmers, however, governments of Rajasthan and Punjab have extended full support to their agitation.

Farmers want GoI to either withdraw the three legislations or guarantee them the minimum support price (MSP) for their crops by introducing a new law.

Gurnam Singh Chaduni is leading the protestors from Haryana. Gurnam had contested the 2019 Assembly elections from Ladwa constituency in Kurukshetra district, but got only 1,307 votes. However, he was quite active in raising farmers’ issues and led several protests across the state.

Apart from Gurnam, several national and regional farm unions, comprising many leaders, have joined hands under the umbrella banner of Samyukt Kisan Morcha.

As farmers do not accept the three new legislations — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation); The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance; and Farm Services and The Essential Commodities (Amendment), they believe the laws will open agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers, remove the barriers to inter-state trade, and provide a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce.

Since the state governments will not be able to collect market fee, cess or levy for trade outside the APMC markets, farmers believe the laws will gradually end the mandi system and leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.

They are also of the opinion that dismantling the mandi system will bring an end to the assured procurement of their crops at MSP. Similarly, farmers believe the price assurance legislation may offer protection to farmers against price exploitation, but will not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation.

Farmers are demanding the government guarantee MSP in writing, or else the free hand given to private corporate houses will lead to their exploitation.

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