Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today that his government’s proposal to pause implementation of the controversial agriculture laws for 18 months – while negotiations to resolve a weeks-long deadlock with irate farmers continue – remains on the table. The proposal – presented earlier this month after nine rounds of talks failed to provide a breakthrough – had been rejected by farmer leaders who insist on the scrapping of all three laws. “During the All-Party meet PM Narendra Modi assured that GoI (Government of India) is approaching the farmers’ issue with an open mind. The PM said GoI’s stand is same as it was on January 22 – the proposal by the Agriculture Minister still stands,” Union Minister Pralhad Joshi said. “He (the Prime Minister) reiterated what (Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh) Tomarji said – that he (the Agriculture Minister) is a phone call away for talks,” Mr Joshi added. After the first rejection the proposal was refused once more last week – at the eleventh round of talks – leading Mr Tomar to declare “the ball is your (the farmers’) court now”. Today the Prime Minister repeated that offer – at an all-party meeting before the presentation of the Union Budget on Monday. The meeting took place a day after 20 opposition parties underlined their support of the protesting farmers – by boycotting the President’s address to a joint sitting of parliament – and included a discussion on the Republic Day violence and, in particular, the incident at the Red Fort. Opposition parties condemned the violence but also demanded an investigation into how “outside elements” had infiltrated the farmers’ movement. The farmers made similar allegations this week – blaming Punjabi actor and activist Deep Sidhu of instigating the clashes and planting a Sikh religious flag at the Red Fort. Lakhs of farmers across India have spent the last several weeks demanding the centre repeal laws they say will leave them at the mercy of large corporate firms.