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Farmers protesting against the new farm laws at Ghazipur Border in New Delhi.
Farmers protesting against the new farm laws at Ghazipur Border in New Delhi.

Reliance distances itself from farm laws

  • This should not have been necessary, as the reforms are aimed at opening up a long-languishing sector to market forces and private deals. But it's a sign of the political atmosphere that the company thought it judicious to distance itself

Reliance Industries Ltd has sought to the clear the air on it being projected as a beneficiary of the three farm laws enacted by the Indian government recently. The company, in a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, said that it has nothing to do with the laws, and that it has no plans to acquire farmland for contract farming, as was being alleged by protesters opposed to farm reforms. "Reliance Retail has never entered into long-term procurement contracts to gain an unfair advantage over farmers or sought [to have its suppliers buy produce] from farmers at less than remunerative prices, nor will it ever do so," the company stated on Monday.

Reliance also sought the court’s intervention to stop the damage being done to Jio’s telecom infrastructure by vandals, many of whom are reported to be protesters who seem to see the company as a symbol of India Inc, which they fear is bent on taking over the country's agricultural sector. Along with the Adani Group, Reliance has become a target of what has the markings of an anti-capitalist movement. This sort of sentiment is political in nature and reflective of a deep-rooted suspicion of businesses. This is unfortunate. It reveals a big perceptual gap on what's good for the country, the result of a failure over the decades to explain to people the rationale of economic reforms that are market-oriented.

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The government of Punjab, in particular, needs to act against he vandalism of telecom assets that serve Jio's network. As for Reliance's farm-sector plans, these should be irrelevant to the country's move to open up farming and release it from state control. For farm contracts, it would help if the Centre would publish model drafts for farmers, lawyers and businesses to examine. It may put some of those fears at rest.

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