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Reliance supports farmers’ demand for fair price, company says will never enter contract farming

The company also said that it had, through its subsidiary Reliance Jio Infocomm, mentioned a petition before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, in which it had sought urgent government intervention to stop the vandalism of its towers.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: January 4, 2021 8:08:52 pm
Customers stand outside a Reliance Fresh Ltd. store in Mumbai, India, on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) on Monday said the company would always support the Indian farmers’ demand for a “fair and profitable price on a predictable basis” for their produce, and that the company had no plans to enter corporate on contract farming, now or in the future. The company also said that it had, through its subsidiary Reliance Jio Infocomm, mentioned a petition before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, in which it had sought urgent government intervention to stop the vandalism of its towers.

“Neither Reliance nor any of our subsidiaries has purchased any agricultural land, directly or indirectly, in Punjab/Haryana or anywhere else in India, for the purpose of “corporate” or “contract” farming. We have absolutely no plans to do so,” the company said in a statement. RIL is one of the two companies farmer groups believe are likely to benefit from the new farm laws. The other company is Gautam Adani-led Adani Group.

Most of the farmers that have been protesting against the three new farm laws brought about by the central government in September, have claimed that the new rules would give undue advantage to big contract farming companies. The farmers have also claimed that big companies such as RIL and the Adani Group had been purchasing vast tracts of farm land in Punjab and Haryana, where they planned to undertake contract farming and set up private mandis, which would undermine the government run mandis.

RIL also sought to dispel this claim, and said that it had neither purchased any agricultural land in the two states, nor would the company ever enter into any “long-term procurement contracts to gain unfair advantage over farmers”.

“Reliance and its affiliates fully share and support the aspiration of Indian farmers to get a fair and profitable price on a predictable basis for what they produce with exemplary hard work, innovation and dedication…Indeed, we shall insist on our suppliers to strictly abide by the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism, and/or any other mechanism for remunerative price for farm produce, as may be determined and implemented by the government,” the company said.

In Punjab, where the protests started in August before the farmers moved towards Delhi, the company has over the past fortnight seen many of its telecom towers vandalised by agitating groups. As of last Tuesday, as many as 2000 cellphone towers of the company had been damaged in some way or the other, with many young farmers cutting the power supplies to these locations. Though the situation is under control now, the company will have to spend considerable time repairing the towers and the optical fibre cables connecting these towers.

On Monday, the company also reiterated its claim that vandalism had been instigated and aided by “vested interests” and RIL’s “business rivals”, hinting towards Bharti Airtel and Vi. RIL’s subsidiary Reliance Jio had in fact written to the DoT that both the companies had been engaging in “malicious” misinformation campaign against Jio.

“These acts of violence have endangered the lives of thousands of its employees and caused damage and disruption to the vital communications infrastructure, sales and service outlets run by its subsidiaries in the two states,” the company said in its statement. Both Bharti Airtel and Vi have refuted the claims, calling the allegations “baseless”.

“In fact, we are amused as to how Jio can even believe that Airtel would be so omnipotent as to make customers forcibly port out of Jio. If we had this power, we would have exercised it over the last three years when Jio amassed a massive number of customers,” Bharti Airtel had said in its letter.

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