Canada-based separatists have been passionately backing Delhi’s middleman agitation over the farm bills, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had even publicly supported the rights of the agitators to protest. But Canada likely wouldn’t have bargained for the turn the “protest” has taken this week.
Over the last week, protesting anarchists have vandalized 1,400 Reliance Jio’s towers in Punjab. It’s hard to understand how Jio’s telecom business is related to the farm bills, but through a combination of conspiracy theories spread by opposition politicians and left-leaning career propagandists, and a general hatred of successful businesses, these agitators deemed it fit to destroy these towers, ostensibly in a bid to hurt Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance empire.
It turns out they hadn’t been particularly careful in choosing the target of their ire.
In December last year, Reliance had sold its tower assets to Canada-based company Brookfield for Rs. 25,215 crore. Brookfield is an alternative asset management company that focuses on real estate, renewable power, infrastructure and private equity, and has its headquarters in Toronto, Canada. As per the deal, Brookfield had bought 100 per cent units of shares issued by the Trust that owns 100 per cent equity of Reliance Jio Infratel, the operating company for Jio’s tower assets. Jio, in turn, had become the anchor tenant of the tower portfolio under a 30-year Master Services Agreement.
So in effect, the towers that were being vandalized by the protesting agitators are owned by a Canadian company, which will presumably have to cough up the money to fix the damage that’s been caused.
The vandalization of “Jio” towers hasn’t been the only step that’s backfired on the agitating protesters. Reports estimate that Punjab and Haryana’s economy is seeing a loss of Rs. 3,500 crore per day because of the protests. “With the ongoing farmers’ agitation and blockade of roads, toll plazas and railways, the economic activities have come to a halt. Industries such as textiles, auto components, bicycles, sports goods, which cater significantly to the export markets would not be able to fulfill their orders, ahead of Christmas, harming our goodwill amongst the global buyers,” ASSOCHAM President Dr Niranjan Hiranandani had said. And with the visuals of telecom towers being destroyed with impunity going viral, Punjab’s reputation as an investment hub might have been tarnished forever, and businesses could think several times before they decide to invest in the state.
The way things are going, the middleman agitation could end up harming Punjab more than it helps.