New Delhi: After more than 1,500 mobile towers were targeted during farmers’ protest in Punjab, Industry body COAI has “strongly condemned” sabotaging of telecom network infrastructure and disruption of services as a form of protest. Terming telecom services as “lifeline” for lakhs of customers, COAI’s Director General, SP Kochhar said disruption of telecom services is causing immense inconvenience to the common man, for whom mobile services are “essential”. Also Read: Alert! No Breathalyzers, But Blood Tests: Mumbai Police’s Strict Measures Against Drunk Drivers On New Year’s Eve
“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 said in a statement. Apex industry body Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI’s) members include Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
More than 1,500 telecom towers in Punjab were damaged by farmers protesting against the three farm laws, disrupting services in some pockets. Power supply to towers that relay telecom signals was snapped and cables cut in several parts of the state as farmers vented their anger on the infrastructure owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s firm Jio as they saw him along with infrastructure tycoon Gautam Adani as major beneficiaries of the new laws.
In a statement on Tuesday, COAI said telecom services are the lifeline of lakhs of customers, including students taking online classes, professionals working from home, people going 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,” COAI’s Kochhar said.
During the lockdown and the continuing pandemic, “warriors of the telecom sector” worked tirelessly to provide seamless and uninterrupted connectivity across the length and breadth of the country through doorstep delivery, infrastructure augmentation and 24×7 network support, Kochhar added.
Also, Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), a registered body of telecom infrastructure providers also urged the state government to persuade farmers not to resort to any unlawful activity in their fight for justice. It has written to the Punjab Police seeking “safety and security of telecom towers as the disruption of network is causing tremendous inconvenience to the general public in view of Covid-10.”
TAIPA in its plea to the Punjab Police said farmers are threatening the employees, technicians and members of physical action in case the towers are restored.
Taking a note of their plea, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday directed police to take strict action against vandalisation of mobile towers and disruption of telecom services in the state during the farmers’ stir against the agri laws. As per the PTI report, the chief minister said he will not let Punjab plunge into anarchy at any cost and nobody can be allowed to take the law into their hands, the chief minister had said he has been forced to toughen his stance as his repeated appeals to perpetrators of such acts had been ignored.
Meanwhile, Reliance Jio Infocomm on Wednesday wrote to Punjab CM and Punjab DGP seeking their intervention into “incidents of sabotage and vandalism at Jio Network sites” in Punjab by unknown persons.