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The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government gave a dramatic turn to the day-long Bharat Bandh called by farmer organizations on Tuesday by inviting them for talks, even as the protests at the border points of Delhi continued for 13th consecutive day on Tuesday.

The initiative was taken by Union home minister Amit Shah, who spoke to farmer leaders and invited them for talks to the ICAR guest house in Pusa on Tuesday evening, a day before the scheduled meeting for the sixth round of talks between farmer leaders and Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar and Piyush Goyal.

Farmer leaders said they are firm on their demand, ahead of the informal meeting between Shah and 13 of their representatives. “We will not step down from the primary demand that these laws have to be repealed and another law guaranteeing the minimum support price (MSP) will have to be enacted," said Gurnam Singh, a farmer leader from Haryana.

The all-India strike was a resounding success, said Yogendra Yadav, part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which is negotiating with the government. “The bandh was observed in more than 10,000 locations in 25 states and the ongoing farmer’s movement has been supported by workers, students and transport unions."

“The movement is not limited to Punjab and Haryana. The bandh was observed in more than 100 taluka’s in Karnataka, in Tamil Nadu’s Cauvery delta, in Maharashtra and other states...in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh hundreds were taken into custody by the police," Yadav said.

In Punjab and Haryana highways were blocked and shops and petrol pumps were closed. However, in the national capital, while some auto and taxi unions kept their vehicles off the road in solidarity with the farm community, traffic movement in Delhi was largely unaffected.

The fifth round of negotiations between the government and farmers ended inconclusively on Saturday. The next round of talks is scheduled for Wednesday.

At Saturday’s meeting, farmer leaders held placards in silence, with ‘Yes or No’ written on them, urging the government to make it clear if it will repeal the laws or not. So far, farmers’ organizations have rejected the government’s offer to amend the reform bills to iron out the differences. Farmers fear that by weakening state regulated markets and widening the role of private corporations, the reforms will dilute existing state purchase of foodgrain at MSP. The three Acts that seek to deregulate agricultural trade, allow for contract farming, and amend the decades-old Essential Commodities Act, were passed by Parliament in September.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tried to pacify the political parties that have extended support to the farmers and farmer unions against the recently passed farm laws. Modi spoke to senior leader of Shiromani Akali Dal Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday to wish him on his birthday. The Punjab-based party had resigned from the Union cabinet on the issue of the farm laws and Badal had threatened to return his Padma Vibhushan to protest against their enactment.

After receiving the invitation from Shah, farmer unions claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government had bowed down to the pressure built by the day-long Bharat Bandh. The protesting farmers claimed that the Bharat Bandh called on Tuesday was successful.

gyan.v@livemint.com

PTI contributed to this story.

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