Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday reached out to thousands of farmers, saying that the government was ready to talk. Tens of thousands of farmers are camping in and outside Delhi to protest against three agriculture laws passed by the Centre in September.

“The government is ready to deliberate on every problem and demand of the farmers,” Shah said in a video message.

Shah said the Centre has already invited the agitating farmers’ unions for talks on December 3. He added that if the farmers want to hold discussions before that, they will have to shift their protests at the place finalised by the government.

“If farmers’ unions want to hold discussions before December 3 then, I want to assure you all that as soon as you shift your protest to structured place, the government will hold talks to address your concerns the very next day,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.

The Union home minister expressed concern for farmers camping out in the biting cold. “The Delhi Police are ready to shift you to big ground, please go there,” he said, according to the news agency. “You will be given police permission to hold programmes there.”

While some farmers continued with their protest at the approved site in Delhi’s Burari area, many are yet to decide if they would head to the designated site. Thousands of farmers are still at state borders, protesting against the three farm laws.

Earlier in the day, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar reiterated that the government was ready for talks with the farmers and has invited them on December 3, reported ANI. He had said the same on Friday, urging farmers to call off their protest. He also accused Opposition parties of “politicising” the matter.

Thousands of farmers had entered Delhi on Friday after the police gave them permission to agitate in the Burari area. The protestors had to brave tear gas and water canons on both Thursday and Friday as they pushed to enter Delhi.

The authorities had taken extraordinary measures to set up blockades on highways, parking buses, trucks and other large vehicles. At some places, they even dug up trenches to obstruct farmers, many of whom camped on highways for the night in biting cold. Dramatic scenes unfolded at the borders as the farmers threw barricades set up by the police into a river. They also clashed with the police on a bridge.

Farm laws

The farmers are protesting against the three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – that were passed in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.

Farmers and traders have also alleged that the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the laws will leave them at the mercy of corporate powers. The government has maintained that farm laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.