15:52 GMT15 January 2021
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    Reliance Industries Limited's statement came ahead of discussions between protesting farmers and the Narendra Modi government. Indian farmers have warned that they will intensify the agitation if the federal government doesn't give in to their demands of repealing the new farm laws on Monday.

    India's top business conglomerate Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has distanced itself from three recently-enacted farm-related laws amid criticism from the nation's main opposition party Congress that the legislation aimed to benefit the Mumbai-headquartered company.

    "… Reliance has nothing whatsoever to do with the three farm laws currently debated in the country, and in no way benefits from them. As such, the sole nefarious purpose of linking the name of Reliance to these laws is to harm our businesses and damage our reputation", stated the company headed by Mukesh Ambani, the second-richest man in Asia, per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

    In a bid to assuage growing concern among protesting farmers, the company also said that it "has absolutely no plans to enter this business [contract farming]".

    "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", it emphasised.

    "It has never entered into long-term procurement contracts to gain unfair advantage over farmers or sought that its suppliers buy from farmers at less than remunerative prices, nor will it ever do so", RIL also underlined.

    The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, one of the three federal farm-related laws which the protesters want repealed, makes it easier for farmers to engage in contracts with corporations and retailers.

    The statement by Reliance comes in the wake of a campaign by Congress against the new farm laws, which have been defended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on several occasions since the most recent round of protests began at the Delhi state border last month.

    "The Adani-Ambani farm laws have to be revoked. Nothing less is acceptable", Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said last month. The Congress Party, which is in power in Punjab, is alleging that the new farm laws will benefit PM Modi's "crony capitalist" friends at the expense of farmers.

    Another Congress MP from Punjab, JS Gill, claimed last month that 53 new agro-based companies had been registered under the names of Ambani and Adani (a reference to another Indian billionaire Gautam Adani) since the laws were enacted in September of last year.

    Reliance Seeks Court Intervention Over Vandalism of Telecom Towers

    Reliance's Monday statement also informed its shareholders that the company had filed a petition with the Punjab and Haryana High Court demanding an "urgent intervention" by authorities to stop the vandalism of its telecom towers in Punjab and Haryana, the two breadbasket states that have emerged as the epicentre of farmer protests.

    "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", it expressed.

    Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, an affiliate of RIL, has faced the flak of protesting farmers in Punjab in recent weeks, with over a thousand of the company's telecom towers being sabotaged as farmers direct their fury against the new farm laws on its business interests.

    Jio, India's most popular telecom network, further alleged in its statement that its "business rivals" were exploiting the ongoing agitation to gain a competitive advantage over its telecom business in Punjab.

    The Reliance affiliate said that it had over 14 million subscribers in Punjab, or 36 percent of the state's overall mobile phone subscribers.


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    protest, agricultural crisis, agriculture, Farms, Punjab, India, Narendra Modi
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