Opposing farmers target India’s largest cell company and its billionaire owner

New Delhi – More than 2,000 cell towers have been damaged in North India, due to the backlash between the farmers and India’s wealthiest businessman due to the collapse of the country’s agricultural industry.

Businessman, Mukesh Ambani, heads Reliance Industries Limited

Along with local authorities, the company says they are showing support for the protests, which have blocked roads in New Delhi for more than a month, which are responsible for damaging the cell towers.

Reliance controls India’s largest cellular company and its largest retailer, including some of the country’s largest grocery store chains. Those chains are expected to benefit from a new law that cultivates the distribution industry to allow more private sector control. According to Forbes magazine, Mr. Ambani, valued at around $ 75 billion, is seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is supporting the new law. He is one of the most influential corporate leaders in New Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani heads India’s largest cell company, Reliance Industries.


Divyakanth Solanki / Shutterstock

The state of Punjab said on Tuesday that it has deployed more than 1,000 people to protect Reliance’s assets across the state. The company filed a petition this week in courts in the state of Punjab and Haryana, where it has more than 20 million cellular customers, for greater security for its retail stores and towers for its Jio telephone network.

Reliance said on Monday, “Government officials have been demanded to intervene immediately to completely stop the illegal acts of vandalism committed by miscreants.” “These acts of violence have endangered the lives of thousands of its employees and caused damage and disruption to critical communications infrastructure.”

Leaders of the farm protests say they neither encouraged nor supported the attacks on the towers. Some protesters are boycotting Reliance products – including Jio, Reliance Retail outlets and its gas stations – as they feel the company withdraws new agricultural laws and will benefit from them by exploiting farmers. Some have posted pictures of the destroyed Jio SIM card on social media sites.

Punjabi farmer and protector Satnam Singh said, “We have appealed to our peasant brothers to boycott Jio.” “We are in this together. Many of us have already closed our Jio connections. “

Shingara Singh Mann, the leader of one of the farmers unions, said that big companies and corporate leaders like Mr. Ambani played a big role in getting the agricultural laws passed.

The protesters have blocked roads in New Delhi for more than a month.


Manish Swaroop / Associated Press

Reliance said it was not included in the new agricultural laws. Mr. Ambani has not publicly commented on the law, and the company refused to provide him for an interview.

Reliance said it supports farmers and retailers in its retail chains, to ensure that they pay the minimum prices set by the government for production. It said it had no intention of trying to degrade small farmers and use new agricultural laws to buy their land.

country folk

Most Indians live in rural areas and depend directly or indirectly on agriculture.

Percentage of total population living in rural areas in 2019

Mr. Modi’s government pushed through laws in September in an effort to surround the region and help save the country from an epidemic.

Under previous laws, farmers had to sell to government licensed middlemen in most states, while food processors and retailers had to buy from the same group of middlemen. The new law gets rid of those restrictions, so farmers can sell directly to anyone they want: consumers, retailers, food processors, or equally similar medium businessmen.

Farmers who are seeking to repeal the laws say they are worried that they will lose a safety net of government-approved buyers who pay the minimum price. They say they understand that the new rules give them more options, but they are concerned that the change also gives buyers more options. Small farmers say they fear they will not be able to make deals with big retailers, no one will buy their crops and eventually they will go out of business.

Economists say that India’s agricultural sector needs to be modernized and streamlined to improve the lives and income of all Indians. He says that giving more freedom to buyers and sellers does not hurt the small farmer by pointing to dairy and poultry industries, which have allowed private sector participation and competition over a longer period of time than other types of farming Has seen a huge increase in

But the protests left no stone unturned to show that some people in rural areas of India are not buying government assurances that the new laws will benefit farmers and consumers.

The agrarian overhaul is the treacherous political base for Mr. Modi. Farmers are probably the most important polling station in India, with the largest rural population in the world, with a population of over 1.3 billion people in the country.

Tens of thousands of Indian farmers have gathered outside New Delhi to protest against new laws aimed at neutralizing agricultural markets. While the government says the law could help India’s economy, farmers fear it may leave small farmers at the mercy of big corporations. Photo: Rajat Gupta / Shutterstock

Attacks on cellular towers represent more than confrontations between rich and poor; They are about the pain and uncertainty associated with the transition away from an economy in which the majority of the population depends on agriculture, said Shubho Roy, an economist at the University of Chicago who has studied the wholesale market system.

“Jio towers represent the future, a service-sector dominated economy,” he said.

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On average, economists say that the new laws could provide better prices to most farmers, as well as consumers, but does not mean that all farmers will benefit. Farmers selling their crops through middlemen at government-determined prices may suffer.

Mr Roy said, “It will lead to a better life for more people, but there is no better life for these people and there are consequences”.

Write Eric Bellman at [email protected]

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