Editorial Notes

Editorial Notes 10th November 2016

What is Stubble Burning? And its practice in India; Impact of Rice- Wheat rotation; Wheat Stubble vs Paddy Stubble; Pending cases in Indian Courts; Reasons for pending cases in Supreme Court.
By IT's Editorial Notes Team
November 10, 2016


GS (M) Paper-2: “Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary”


Start from the top


Pending cases in Indian Courts:

  • As of March 2016, 27.7 million cases are pending in district and subordinate courts. 
  • 9 million cases are pending in different for high courts.
  • Almost 60000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court.
  • These three tiers of judiciary alone account for around 33 million pending cases.
  • Adding pending cases in Tribunals, the total number will be somewhere close to 40 million.

How pending cases has increased in Supreme Court?

  • 771 pending in 1950, 23,092 in 1978, more than 100,000 in 1983, 134,221 in 1991 and 19,806 in 1998.
  • That remarkable decline in backlog was then attributed to IT use and better case management.
  • The backlog climbed to 34,481 in 2005, 54,562 in 2010 and 59,595 in 2016.

Reasons for pending cases in Supreme Court:

  • Adequate vacancies have not been created to keep pace with increasing number of cases being filed in SC.
  • Vacancies in Judiciary have not been filled in a timely manner, due to tussle between Judiciary and Executive to gain upper hand in judicial appointments.
  • Number of cases going to Supreme Court using regular appeal provision, has been increasing.
  • Absence of Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanisms has resulted in heavy burden on Judiciary.
  • Apathy of Government offices: Many cases that can be sorted out by simple and innovative executive action, are not resolved due to apathy of Government offices and they end up in Courts. This is attested by the fact that, Government is the major litigant in courts.

Recommendations made so far:

The recommendations can be broadly placed under the following 3 headings:

  • Supply-side (more courts/judges);
  • Productivity (better procedures, work norms, shift systems); and
  • Demand-side (alternative dispute resolution, curb on government litigation).

Way forward:

  • First, despite six vacancies, the number of Supreme Court judges has steadily increased since 1950. There doesn’t seem to be a great supply-side issue.
  • Since backlog reduction in the Supreme Court is probably primarily a function of demand management, should it hear so many original and appellate petitions?
  • The US Supreme Court receives 7,000 to 8,000 petitions a year and hears (for oral evidence) 80. This is around one per cent.
  • The Indian Supreme Court accepts between 15 per cent and 26 per cent of petitions. This is too high and represents a hollowing out of the lower judiciary.


Thus, strengthening of the lower Judiciary (computerisation and better case management), improving the quality of judgments being given in lower judiciary & High courts and establishing institutions like National Court of Appeal, coupled with, being more selective on accepting cases, will enable the Supreme Court to reduce its pending cases and to truly serve its role of a Constitutional court.

[Ref: Indian Express]


GS (M) Paper-3: “Environmental pollution and degradation”


Crop burning: Straws in the wind



Delhi is suffocating from sever air pollution. It is often pointed out that paddy stubble burning in neighbouring Haryana and Punjab is a major reason for affecting air quality in Delhi during the onset of winter.

What is Stubble Burning? And its practice in India:

  • Stubble burning is a common practice followed by farmers in Haryana and Punjab.
  • It is done to prepare the field for sowing of wheat in November as there is little time left between the harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat.
  • Since this practice is followed every year despite some efforts by the State governments to prevent it, the problem of air quality getting affected in Delhi during October-November will recur.

Why farmers opt for rice-wheat rotation pattern?

  • Historically, rice was not a major crop grown in Punjab and Haryana. In Punjab, rice accounted for only 7.6 per cent of the total cropped area during 1970-1973, which increased to a whopping 36 per cent during 2011-13.
  • Similarly, in Haryana, paddy area increased from 5.6 per cent to 19 per cent during the same period.
  • Extensive development of irrigation, assured price (minimum support price) and secured market (government procurement) have induced farmers to grow paddy and expand the area of cultivation considerably over time.
  • Consequently, farmers in this traditionally wheat-growing belt started cultivating rice and wheat in rotation year after year.

Impact of Rice- Wheat rotation:

  • Various studies have shown that the rice-wheat rotation has put land and other resources under severe strain, resulting in depletion of soil nutrients, decline in water table, build-up of pests and diseases, and micronutrient deficiency.
  • The State governments’ initiatives to push crop diversification as a strategy to overcome these problems have not convinced farmers to break the rice-wheat rotation.
  • Crop diversification with vegetables and fruits hit a roadblock due to marketing problems.

Implications of Mechanisation:

  • Being agriculturally progressive States, almost all farmers in Punjab and Haryana grow high-yield varieties of rice and wheat.
  • These States have also experienced a high level of mechanisation of agricultural operations including harvesting.
  • In fact, combine harvesters have been extensively used for harvesting of paddy and wheat due to non-availability of labour at the time of harvesting and increase in labour cost.
  • The combine harvester cuts the crop well above the ground, leaving behind substantial amount of stubble on the field.
  • The machine leaves the residues in such a state that it is difficult to collect them manually.

Wheat Stubble vs Paddy Stubble:

  • The farmers found ways to collect the wheat residue (bhusa) as it is a highly valuable animal feed and is even traded across districts.
  • Given its economic use, the farmers run a chaff combine (reaper) after combine harvesting to collect straws, cut stubbles and make into chaff for feeding to animals directly or mixed with green fodder.
  • So the burning of wheat residue is not necessary for the farmers because of the availability of technology and its higher economic value as dry fodder.
  • Rice straw, however, is not used as fodder as it is found to be non-palatable to animals due to its high silica content.
  • Because of its little economic value as animal feed and other general uses, farmers are prompted to burn it on the field instead of incurring a high cost on collecting it.
  • In fact, field studies show that even though farmers are aware that the burning of straw is harmful to health, they do not have alternatives for utilising them effectively.
  • Therefore, blaming only the farmers may not solve the problem of air pollution and there is a need to find sustainable technological solutions that can help farmers and simultaneously allow everyone to breathe clean air.

Way Ahead:

  • The available paddy straw can be effectively used for power generation, which will go a long way towards overcoming the problem of disposal of crop residues and power deficit in the region.
  • According to data from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Punjab and Haryana have not made much progress in creating biomass-based power generation plants as compared to States such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • Thus, there is great potential for making investments in paddy straw-based power plants which can help avoid stubble burning to a large extent and also create employment opportunities.
  • Incorporation of crop residues in the soil can improve soil moisture and help activate the growth of soil microorganisms for better plant growth.
  • However, suitable machinery for collection, chopping and in situ incorporation of straw is required. Further, initiatives can also be made to convert the removed residues into enriched organic manure through composting.
  • Presently, a limited quantity of paddy straw is used for cardboard making and in packing industries and paper mills. However, new opportunities for industrial use — such as extraction of yeast protein — can be explored through scientific research.
  • There is also a need to develop rice varieties that are both rich in grain yield and high in straw quality.
  • Use of such dual-purpose rice varieties will help to maintain food security, farm income and improve environmental sustainability.
[Ref: The Hindu]


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