U.P. drops legal action against farmers for burning crop waste

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U.P. drops legal action against farmers for burning crop waste

Smoke billows from paddy waste stubble as it burns in a field near Jewar, in the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, November 6th, 2018. LUCKNOW, India, Aug. 26 - The most populous state in India will drop legal proceedings against farmers accused of burning crop waste, a major source of pollution, as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party tries to placate growers ahead of elections next year to the state assembly.

The action comes at a time when some states have stepped up penalties for crop residue burning to fight an expected spike in pollution that brings smog every year during low temperatures of winter.

The mostly agricultural northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which is home to more people than Brazil, is also considering banning farmers from costly fines for burning crop stubble.

The idea was not to punish farmers but to spread awareness about crop stubble burning and its effects on the environment, Navneet Sehgal told Reuters.

Shiv Kant Dixit, the chief of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, or Indian Farmers Federation affiliated to Prime Minister Narendra Modi'sModi's BJP, said it had urged the state to withdraw legal cases against farmers for crop residue burning.

About 10,000 farmers were slapped with cases of stubble burning, and a fine of about 1 billion rupees was imposed, Dixit said, referring to a total figure of $13 million.

The state government is looking to mollify angry farmers ahead of the state assembly election, said Sudhir Panwar, chief of a farmers' group, Kisan Jagriti Manch.

For more than eight months, tens of thousands of farmers have camped on major highways to the capital, New Delhi to oppose new farm laws, in the longest growing protest of growers against Modi's government. The election in New Delhi, which sends 80 lawmakers to Parliament in Uttar Pradesh, is often seen as a barometer of the popularity of the federal government.

Modi BJP is expected to pull out all the stops to hold on to the state, which has a population of 240 million.

Reporting by Clarence Fernandez in LUCKNOW; Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj and Saurabh Sharma.