New Delhi: Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar has invited leaders of farmer unions, protesting the three central farm reform laws, for talks on Tuesday, instead of December 3, citing the Covid-19 pandemic and cold. Thousands of farmers stayed put at various Delhi border points for the fifth consecutive day on Monday protesting the new farm laws, which they fear will dismantle the minimum support price system and corporatise farming.

“Keeping in view the cold and Covid-19, we have invited leaders of farmer unions for discussion much before the scheduled December 3 meeting,” Tomar told PTI.

Now, the meeting has been called at 3 pm on December 1 at Vigyan Bhawan in the national capital, he said, adding those leaders who were present in the meeting held on November 13 have been invited this time.

Earlier in the day, Union home minister Amit Shah held a second round of discussion with Tomar and other BJP leaders on the issue. On Sunday, farmers had demanded an unconditional meeting with the government in connection with the three agricultural laws passed by the Centre.

The fourth round of talks between farmers groups and a high-level ministerial panel was scheduled to be held on December 3. After Shah’s assurances, it is learnt that some farmers’ groups were in touch with senior BJP politicians and have expressed their willingness to hold a dialogue if the central government is ready for unconditional talks.

The government may announce setting up an inter-ministerial committee to address the grievances of farmers after another round of discussions. An information and education programme is expected to be rolled out to allay fear among them, officials added.

Meanwhile, security along the Delhi borders have been beefed up as officials estimate that the number of protesting farmers is likely to swell. Around 12 companies of paramilitary forces along with the local police are posted at the five borders adjoining Delhi-NCR.

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