GS Paper II – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Hr.

Centre may expand social security net

What’s Happening-

  • The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation’s central board of trustees will meet to consider extending social security benefits to volunteers under anganwadi, mid-day meal and Accredited Social Health Activists (Asha) schemes.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The EPFO has proposed to the Labour ministry that a lower contributory rate of 10% of income towards the Employees’ Provident Fund be allowed for scheme workers as against 12% contribution stipulated for the organised workers.
  • According to estimates, there are 14 lakh Anganwadi workers, 12 lakh Anganwadi helpers, 25.50 lakh mid-day meal workers in the country, as per the agenda of the EPFO’s central board of trustees meeting.
  • There is no mandatory social security cover for such scheme workers at present. However, the Centre can issue a notification to cover any class of establishments with a lower contributory rate under the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952. This will only be applicable to scheme workers in organisations employing at least 20 workers.
  • Providing social security coverage to the unorganised workers has been one of the key demands of the central trade unions.
  • The EPFO will also consider a proposal to increase wage ceiling for its social security coverage to Rs 25,000 a month from Rs 15,000 a month at present in a bid to bring more workers under the provident fund net.

    Background-

  • The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), is an Organization tasked to assist the Central Board of Trustees, a statutory body formed by the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 and is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Labour and EmploymentGovernment of India.
  • EPFO assists the Central Board in administering a compulsory contributory Provident Fund Scheme, a Pension Scheme and an Insurance Scheme for the workforce engaged in the organized sector in India.
  • It is also the nodal agency for implementing Bilateral Social Security Agreements with other countries on a reciprocal basis.
  • The schemes cover Indian workers as well as International workers (for countries with which bilateral agreements have been signed.
  • As of now 17 Social Security Agreements are operational. It is one of the largest social security organisations .

GS Paper III – Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Google to bring artificial intelligence into daily life

What’s Happening-

  • Artificial intelligence has been the secret sauce for some of the biggest technology companies.
  • But technology giant Alphabet Inc.’s Google is betting big on ‘democratising’ artificial intelligence and machine learning and making them available to everyone — users, developers and enterprises.

Background: What is AI?

  • Artificial intelligence is apparently intelligent behaviour by machines, rather than the natural intelligence (NI) of humans and other animals.
  • In computer science AI research is defined as the study of “intelligent agents“: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal.

Key Points discussed were:

  • These Artificial intelligence technologies would add a lot of value to self-driving cars, Google Photos’ search capabilities and even Snapchat filters that convert the images of users into animated pictures.
  • From detecting and managing deadly diseases, reducing accident risks to discovering financial fraud.

No programming:

  • AI aims to build machines that can simulate human intelligence processes, while Stanford University describes machine learning as “the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed.”
  • The Mountain View, California-based Google has introduced new capabilities for its Cloud Vision API which has already enabled developers to extract metadata from more than one billion images. It offers enhanced optical character recognition capabilities that can extract content from scans of text-heavy documents such as legal contracts, research papers and books. It also detects individual objects and faces within images and finds and reads printed words contained within images. For instance, Realtor.com, a resource for home buyers and sellers, uses Cloud Vision API. This enables its customers to use their smartphone to snap a photo of a home that they’re interested in and get instant information on that property.

AI to Health care and Education:

  • Google is also aiming to use AI and machine learning to bring healthcare to the underserved population.
  • It uses the power of computer-based intelligence to detect breast cancer. It does this by teaching the algorithm to search for cell patterns in the tissue slides, the same way doctors review slides.
  • The team had earlier applied deep learning to interpret signs of diabetic retinopathy in retinal photographs. The condition is the fastest-growing cause of blindness, with close to 415 million diabetic patients at risk worldwide.
  • AI can deliver this transformation at a scale.

GS Paper II –International Relations

Trump to gut Obama climate policy

What’s Happening-
U.S. President Donald Trump is set to issue a sweeping executive order to reverse a multitude of federal measures taken by his predecessor Barack Obama in order to meet American commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Key Points discussed were:

America is making a turnabout in its climate policy:

  • Collectively, these climate measures could have moved the U.S. closer to its commitment of reducing its carbon emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, though they were not sufficient. With Mr. Trump undoing the regulations on fossil fuel, America is making a turnabout in its climate policy.

Trump and Jobs:

  • Mr. Trump would dismantle the Clean Power Plan that sought to nudge the U.S. power industry from coal to renewable energy and cancel six executive orders and memorandums, all from the Obama era.
  • More federal land will be open to mining and power plants will be allowed to continue on coal without facing curbs once regulations are lifted.

Legal wrangle:

  • Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan has been caught in a judicial wrangle, with 24 American States and the fossil fuel industry opposing it and 18 States and environmental groups defending it.
  • Mr. Trump’s executive order cannot instantly withdraw the regulations, as it involves a rule-making process of notification and hearings. 

Energy independence:

  • The Clean Power Plan was the cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s climate policy in the run-up to meeting Paris commitment. 

Background-
Cancelling” the Paris Agreement and putting coal miners back to work were promises made by the President during the 2016 campaign. These are issues that resonate well with the conservative constituency.