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The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) on Tuesday condemned the vandalism of mobile towers by agitating farmers against the three contentious laws, which disrupted telecom services in Punjab. Over 1,500 telecom towers owned or operated by Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd have been destroyed in the past few days.

According to a PTI report, power supply to towers relaying signals was snapped in many parts of Punjab, as farmers targeted the infrastructure owned by Reliance Jio.

“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," said S.P. Kochhar, director general, COAI, the industry body representing telecom operators.

For over a month, protests continue against the three new farm laws, which allowed farmers to sell their produce to any buyer of their choice, bypassing middlemen or commission agents at state-controlled markets. The contentious laws were passed by Parliament in September.

Mandis, or marketplaces for selling farm produce, were set up in the 1950s to stop the exploitation of farmers and pay a minimum support price (MSP) for certain produce. Many farmers see the MSP as a vital safety net, and are sceptical of the new laws as they fear of being exploited by large companies, such as Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd. Though the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have repeatedly said that procurement of crops at MSP will continue under the new laws, farmers continue to protest citing their concerns. Jio, being a RIL subsidiary, has been facing the heat of the protesters. “The disruption of telecom services, which are considered essential under various enactments, is causing immense inconvenience to common man for whom the mobile services are so essential," Kochhar added.

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