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The Union government on Monday sought to break the deadlock over farm laws enacted recently by inviting representatives from 40 protesting farmers’ unions for the sixth round of talks on Wednesday. The talks, scheduled to take place at Vigyan Bhavan in the national capital on 30 December at 2pm, come after five rounds of discussions with farmers’ unions over the last one month remained inconclusive.

Last week, farmers’ unions had proposed that the next round of talks could happen on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last week said that the Centre was ready for talks at any time on issues related to farmers.

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“It has been conveyed that the farmers’ organisations are always ready to hold talks with open mind and will remain so. The government of India is also committed to arrive at a complete and logical resolution of the relevant issues with a clear intention and open mind," read the letter from agriculture secretary Sanjay Aggarwal dated Monday inviting the representatives of farmers’ unions.

Apart from the three farm laws and the minimum support price (MSP) purchase system, a detailed discussion will also take place on The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020, as well as The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020, and other farm related issues, Aggarwal said.

Thousands of farmers, particularly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been demonstrating for over a month at different border areas of Delhi, in one of the largest protests by farmers’ unions since the Modi-led government first came to power in 2014. The farmers have demanded the repeal of all the three laws and said that the protests could intensify if this is not done.

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a coalition of more than 250 farmers’ unions from across India, reiterated its stand on Monday. The coalition said that the letter sent by the government has been “clever with words" and the Centre is not willing to engage on the agenda that the farmers want to talk on. The government claims that it has an open mind, but is adamant that the laws should remain, it pointed out.

“The letter of farmers’ organisations dated 26 December has at long last been replied to by the government on Monday but the reply is woefully short of any attempt to resolve issues. The farmers want a meeting on four specific agenda items, but the government has used vague and unspecific language, indicating its willingness to discuss the full agenda items proposed by farmers," said the AIKSCC in a statement on Monday.

The four topics to be discussed are modalities for repealing the farm laws, mechanism for legal guarantee under MSP, amendments to the ordinance to exclude farmers from the penal provisions and changes in electricity bill to protect the interest of farmers.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Modi virtually flagged off the 100th Kisan Rail from Sangola in Maharashtra to Shalimar in West Bengal and said the service would be a major step towards increasing farmers’ income and allowing them to sell their crop in other states.

“This work shows our commitment to serve the farmers. It is also proof of how fast our farmers are ready for new possibilities," Modi said.

Shreya Nandi contributed to this story.

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