Sky News Bureau Chandigarh, (28 December, 2020)
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday issued a stern warning against vandalisation of mobile towers and disruption of telecom services in the state, and directed police to take strict action against all those resorting to such unlawful activities.
Making it clear that he will not tolerate destruction of any private or public property in Punjab, the Chief Minister said he was forced to toughen his stance as his repeated appeals to perpetrators of such acts had been ignored.
The Chief Minister asserted that he will not let Punjab by plunged into anarchy at any cost and nobody can be allowed to take law into their hands. Pointing out that his government had not objected to, or stopped, peaceful protests in the state against the Centre’s black Farm Laws for the past several months, he said that damage to property and inconvenience to the citizens could not, however, be endured.
The Chief Minister’s warning came as the total number of mobile towers impacted in the state went up to 1561, of which 25 had been physically damaged, allegedly by some farmers and their supporters in violation of the directions of the Kisan Unions to keep their protests against the Centre’s black Farm Laws peaceful.
Calling upon farmers and their supporters to put an immediate stop to such destructive activities, which were being disowned by farmer leaders themselves, the Chief Minister said disruption of telecom services could lead to a communications blackout in the state, causing its people, especially students and working professionals, to suffer serious consequences.
With examinations, especially Board exams, nearing and students dependent on online education amid the Covid pandemic, such communication breakdown could seriously affect their future, he said. The Chief Minister said his government had already distributed 1.75 lakh Smart Phones to class XII students to equip them for the Board exams, but the vandalization of telecom property was hampering the students.
The Chief Minister further said that professionals working from home, with many of them having come to Punjab during the pandemic, could lose their jobs due to such acts of violence and damage to property. Even banking services, which were also largely dependent on online transactions in these times of crisis, were taking a major hit due to these unlawful acts, he added.
The farmers’ agitation had so far been successful and had garnered the support of people from all sections of the society and across the country due to its peaceful nature, said the Chief Minister, warning that use of violence could alienate the protestors from the masses, which would be detrimental to the interests of the farming community.
While his government’s sympathies were with the agitating farmers, which was why it had also brought in state amendment Bills in the Vidhan Sabha to negate the central government’s legislations, nobody could be allowed to take law and order in their hands, said Captain Amarinder.
Of the 1561 towers affected over the past few days, 146 were impacted since Monday morning due to disruption of power supply to 32 towers, which led to disconnection of services of the remaining 114. So far, 433 towers have been repaired, according to an official spokesperson. The state has a total of 21306 mobile towers spread across its 22 districts.