Home Minister Amit Shah met with farmers this evening, raising hopes for a resolution a day before the government’s sixth round of negotiations to end massive protests against farm laws.
The meeting venue was moved to the sprawling Pusa agricultural institute campus a few km from Amit Shah’s official home, reportedly to restrict the media glare.
The Home Minister’s invite, indicating that the government is engaging with the farmers at the highest level, came as a nationwide shutdown or Bharat Bandh called by protesting farmers hit road and rail traffic in parts of the country, blocked many highways and shut down markets, affecting supplies.
“I received a phone call. Amit Shah has called a meeting. We have been called at 7 pm,” said farmer leader Rakesh Tikait.
Mr Tikait said various representatives of farmer groups protesting on the highways near Delhi would attend the meeting.
“There is no midway. We will demand just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from the Home Minister at today’s meeting,” farmer leader Rudru Singh Mansa told reporters at the Singhu border between Delhi and Haryana, one of the main centres of the weeklong protest.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, NCP, Aam Aadmi Party, DMK and TRS, have backed today’s protest. They will meet with President Ram Nath Kovind tomorrow to convey their stand and concerns.
A meeting on Friday between the centre and farmers, which lasted seven hours, failed to end the deadlock.
Farmer groups said they would not accept anything short of the scrapping of three new laws enacted in September, which they fear will reduce their earnings and leave them at the mercy of corporates.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar, who led the negotiations, said the government “has no ego” but made it clear that the government was ready to offer anything but repeal the laws.
“The government suggested an amendment in all three laws. But the farmers’ organisations unanimously said all the three laws should be repealed. The government assured that they can consider new laws on Minimum Support Price,” said Balkaran Singh Brar, a leader of All-India Kisan Sabha.
At various meetings, the farmers have made a 39-point presentation on how they feel the laws fail them.
Thousands of farmers are camping on highways near Delhi, blocking most entry points into the national capital, to protest against the laws.