30th November Current Affairs

1.Significance of Peatlands

News: Sustainably managing peatlands — peat-swamp forests found around the tropics — can protect humans from future pandemics, according to a new study.

What is the new study?

  • Peatlands were rich in biodiversity, including many potential vertebrate and invertebrate vectors, or carriers of disease, the study said. These included numerous vertebrates known to represent a risk of spreading zoonotic diseases, such as bats, rodents, pangolins and primates.
  • These areas also faced high levels of habitat disruption such as wild or human-made fires and wildlife harvesting that was perfect conditions for potential emerging zoonotic diseases. The first reported case of Ebola in 1976 was from a peatland area. The cradle of the HIV/AIDS pandemic was believed to be around Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, another area with extensive peatlands.

What are Peatlands?

  • Peatlands are terrestrial wetland ecosystems in which waterlogged conditions prevent plant material from fully decomposing. Consequently, the production of organic matter exceeds its decomposition, which results in a net accumulation of peat. Over millennia this material builds up and becomes several metres thick. They occur in almost every country on Earth, currently covering 3% of the global land surface.
  • Peatland landscapes are varied – from blanket bog landscapes with open, treeless vegetation in the Flow Country of Scotland – a tentative World Heritage site – to swamp forests in Southeast Asia.

Significance:

  • Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store. This area sequesters 0.37 gigatonnes of CO2 a year. In their natural, wet state peatlands provide vital ecosystem services.
  • By regulating water flows, they help minimise the risk of flooding and drought and prevent seawater intrusion. In many parts of the world, peatlands supply food, fibre and other local products that sustain local economies. They also preserve important ecological and archaeological information such as pollen records and human artefacts.
  • The protection and restoration of peatlands are vital in the transition towards a low-carbon and circular economy. Damaged peatlands contribute about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from the land-use sector.
  • CO2 emissions from drained peatlands are estimated at 1.3 gigatonnes of CO2 annually. This is equivalent to 5.6% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Draining peatlands reduces the quality of drinking water due to pollution from dissolved compounds.

2.Fiscal Deficit higher than target

News: The Union Government’s fiscal deficit further widened to ₹9.53 lakh crore, or close to 120% of the annual budget estimateat the end of October of the current fiscal.

  • The deficit widened mainly due to poor revenue realisation. The lockdown imposed to curb spreading of coronavirus infections had significantly impacted business activities and in turn contributed to sluggish revenue realisation.

What is the fiscal deficit?

  • It is the difference between the Revenue Receipts plus Non-debt Capital Receipts (NDCR) and the total expenditure. In other words, fiscal deficit is “reflective of the total borrowing requirements of Government”.

Impact of high fiscal deficit:

  • In the economy, there is a limited pool of investible savings.These savings are used by financial institutions like banks to lend to private businesses (both big and small) and the governments (Centre and state).
  • If the fiscal deficit ratio is too high,it implies that there is a lesser amount of money left in the market for private entrepreneurs and businesses to borrow.
  • Lesser amount of this money, in turn, leads to higher rates of interest charged on such lending.
  • A high fiscal deficit and higher interest rates would also mean thatthe efforts of the Reserve Bank of India to reduce interest rates are undone.

Acceptable level of fiscal deficit:

  • For a developing economy, where private enterprises may be weak and governments may be in a better state to invest, fiscal deficit could be higher than in a developed economy.
  • Here, governments also have to invest in both social and physical infrastructure upfront without having adequate avenues for raising revenues.
  • In India, the FRBM Actsuggests bringing the fiscal deficit down to about 3 percent of the GDP is the ideal target. Unfortunately, successive governments have not been able to achieve this target.

3.Honey Farmer Producer Organisation

News: Recently, the Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has virtually inaugurated the Honey Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) Programme of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED).
What are FPOs?

  • A Producer Organisation(PO) is a legal entity formed by primary producers, viz. farmers, milk producers, fishermen, weavers, rural artisans, craftsmen, etc. FPO is one type of PO where the members are farmers.
  • Apiculture or beekeepingis the care and management of honey bees for the production of honey and wax. In this method, bees are bred commercially in apiaries, an area where a lot of beehives can be placed.

Details:

  • The programme has been launched under the Formation and Promotion of FPOs. It is a new Central Sector Schemefor the promotion of 10,000 new FPOs. Under it, the National Level Project Management Advisory and Fund Sanctioning Committee (N-PMAFSC) had allocated FPO clusters for 2020-21 to all implementing agencies.
  • Initially there will be three implementing agencies to form and promote FPOs, namely Small Farmers Agri-business Consortium(SFAC), National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). NAFED has been appointed as the 4th national implementing agency.
  • States may also, if so desire, nominate their implementing agency in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare(DAC&FW). FPOs will be developed by specialist Cluster Based Business Organizations (CBBOs) engaged by implementing agencies.
  • NAFED, through CBBOs and the Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals(ISAP) has initiated the formation and promotion of FPOs of beekeepers and honey collectors in 5 states of India. These 5 locations are East Champaran (Bihar), Morena (Madhya Pradesh), Bharatpur (Rajasthan), Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) and Sunderbans (West Bengal). The first Honey FPO has been registered in the state of Madhya Pradesh under the National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM).

Benefits:

  • Skill Upgradationin scientific beekeeping.
  • State of the artinfrastructural facilities for processing honey and allied beekeeping products like bee’s wax, propolis, royal jelly, bee venom,
  • Quality upgradation byquality control laboratories.
  • Bettersupply chain management by improving collection, storage, bottling and marketing centres.
  • Promotion and Formation of FPOs is the first step for converting Krishi into Atmanirbhar Krishi.

Other Initiatives

  • Government is promoting beekeeping as part of itsaim to double farmers’ income and ensure tribal upliftment. The Government has allocated Rs. 500 crore towards beekeeping under the Atmanirbhar Abhiyan.

Apiary on Wheels:

  • It is a unique concept designed by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission(KVIC) for the easy upkeep and migration of Bee Boxes having live Bee colonies. The National Bee Board has created four modules to impart training as part of the NBHM.
  • Under it, 30 lakh farmers have been trained in beekeeping and are also being financially supported by the Government. Mini Mission 1 and Mini Mission 2 are schemes under the mission.
  • The Government launched NBHMas part of ‘Sweet Revolution’. The ‘Sweet Revolution’ was launched in 2016 to promote beekeeping and associated activities.

National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd

  • It is an apex organization of marketing cooperativesfor agricultural produce in India. It was founded on 2nd October 1958 and is registered under the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002. NAFED is now one of the largest procurement as well as marketing agencies for agricultural products in India.

Objectives:

  • To organize, promote and develop marketing, processing and storage of agricultural, horticultural and forest produce.
  • To distribute agricultural machinery, implements and other inputs, undertake inter-state, import and export trade, wholesale or retail as the case may be.
  • To act and assist for technical advice in agricultural production for the promotion and the working of its members, partners, associates and cooperative marketing, processing and supply societies in India.

National Bee Board

  • SFAC registered the NBB as a society under theSocieties Registration Act, 1860 in 2000 and it was reconstituted (with the secretary as chairman) in June 2006.
  • It aims at overall development of beekeeping by promoting scientific beekeepingin India to increase the productivity of crops through pollination and increase the honey production for increasing the income of the beekeepers/farmers. Presently NBB is implementing National Horticulture Mission (NHM) and Horticulture Mission for North East and Himalayan State (HMNEM).

4.Federated Learning

News: An improvement in a Machine Learning (ML) model, called ‘federated learning’, is said to enable companies to develop new ways of collecting anonymous data without compromising their privacy.

What is ‘federated learning’?

  • Federated learning is an ML method used to train an algorithm across multiple decentralised devices or servers holding data samples. It doesn’t exchange data with the devices, meaning there is no central dataset or server that stores the information.
  • Standard ML models require all data to be centralised in a single server. Implementation of federated learning eliminates the need for maintaining a storage hub. The term was first introduced in a 2016 Google study titled ‘Communication-efficient learning of deep networks from decentralized data.’
  • Google emphasised mobile phones and tablets, stating that modern devices contain special features like speech recognition and image models that can store large amounts of data.
  • Since then, Google has used the technique is various products, including Gboard, which provides text and phrase suggestions to the keyboard.

How this works?

  • Federated learning aims to train an algorithm, like deep neural networks, on multiple local datasets contained in local nodes, without explicitly exchanging data.
  • The general principle involves simply exchanging parameters between these nodes. Parameters include a number of federated learning rounds, the total number of nodes, and learning rate.
  • The distinct advantage of the model is its ability to reduce privacy and security risks by limiting the attack surface to only the device, rather than the device and the cloud, Google stated in the study.

Why need such technology?

  • Smart home devices like speakers and smartwatches collect and share data with other devices and systems over the network. These Internet of Things (IoT) devices are equipped with sensors and software that store a user’s private information like body measurements and location.
  • This large chunk of stored data is used by the device makers to improve their products and services.

Applications

  • Federated learning is said to have application in healthcare, where hospitals and pharmaceutical companies can exchange data for treating diseases without sharing private clinical information.