Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC 24th March 2024

National News 

1. IMA flags 'brain drain' of specialists to Britain's NHS 

  • The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has expressed its displeasure over what it calls as the "cherry-picking" of physicians from India to fill the gaps in the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom, without offering anything substantial in return to the medical fraternity here. 
  • The IMA called it brain drain and noted that India too needs its specialists and those in real need of employment and better career prospects are actually the MBBS graduates. 
  • "The opening we want is for our MBBS graduates. The NHS has got gaps and we are ready to help them if they help us," IMA national president R.V. Aso- kan told The Hindu. 
  • The IMA is actively look- ing at setting up a portal for providing employment opportunities to young doctors, he added. 

International News 

2.Hong Kong's new national security law comes into force 

  • Hong Kong's new national security law came into force on Saturday, putting into immediate effect tough penalties of up to life imprisonment for crimes including treason and insurrection. 
  • The law - commonly referred to as Article 23 - targets five categories of national security crimes and was swiftly passed by Hong Kong's Opposition-free legislature on Tuesday. 
  • The United States, the European Union, Japan and Britain have been among the law's strongest critics, with the U.K. Foreign Minister David Cameron said it would "further damage the rights and free- doms" of those in the city. 
  • U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Friday expressed "deep concern" that the law could be used to undermine rights and curb dissent, adding it could damage Hong Kong's reputation as an interna- tional finance hub. 
  • But Hong Kong leader John Lee has called the passage of the "Safeguarding National Security Ordinance" a "historic moment". He also said the law was necessary to "prevent black-clad violence", a reference to Hong Kong's massive and violent prodemocracy protests in 2019. 
  • Nearly 300 people have been arrested under the 2020 security law so far. 

State News 

3. Winter season lacks bite in Munnar as frost gives hill station a miss for the first time in 20 years 

  • Munnar, the hill station in Kerala's Idukki district, famed for its misty mornings from December to February, has deviated from its usual winter pattern this year. Officials say winter was marked by a total lack of frost, a first in the past two decades, which is unprecedented. 
  • Data from the United Planters Association of South India tea research center in Munnar show that no sub-zero temperature was reported this year in Munnar. "The lowest recorded temperature was 2°C on January 18 and 19 at the Silent Valley Estate under Kannan Devan Plantations in Munnar. "This year, there was an absence of frosty conditions in Munnar compared to the past 20 years," says a source. 
  • Climatologists say the winter season has undergone a change in Munnar. 
  • In Munnar until mid-January. The absence of clear skies in January resulted in the absence of frosty weather this year. However, a cool climate was experienced at the hill station until the last week of February," says an expert. 
  • Sources say frost typically causes damage to tea plantations, with around 700 hectares of tea affected annually. However, no such damage was reported in Munnar this year. 
  • The regular winter season typically begins in late-November with cold intensifying by the first week of January. However, this year, frost and extreme cold were totally absent. "This year, intermittent rain and overcast weather persisted 
  • Climatologist Gopakumar Cholayil says the total absence of frost at the hill station indicates climate variability. "Climate varia- bility is being experienced for the first time at hill stations akin to Munnar. A detailed study is needed to find the reasons for the phenomenon. Absence of frost has benefited the tea plantation sector this year but it may negatively impact tourism if such a weather pattern prevails in the coming years," he says. 
  • He says normal weather may return to the hill station next year. 
  • Sojan G., coordinator of My Munnar Movement, an initiative to promote tourism activities in Munnar, says cool weather continued in the hill station in January and February attracting tourists. "Since the other destinations faced searing heat, tourists preferred Munnar because of the cool climate," he said. 

4. New programme to help visually challenged to file police complaint 

  • The Disha Divyang Suraksha (DDS) programme, launched by the Visakhapatnam City Police to help the visually challenged and the hearing impaired to lodge a proper complaint, has got good response. Speaking to The Hindu, 
  • Police Commissioner A. Ravi Shankar said, "In the control room and command control center, we will keep a Braille script book, so that once a visually challenged person comes to our police station he or she can use it to file a complaint. The complaint filed through Braille will be reproduced in text format by an expert and printed 
  • Visakhapatnam Police Commissioner A. Ravi Shankar sensitizes the visually challenged on the use of Disha Divyang Suraksha through a Braille printer for the inspector and the personnel present at the station to understand the issue and file a proper complaint". 
  • In case of the hearing and speech impaired, they can either video record the complaint in their sign language and send it to the nearest police station or approach the police station in person and file the complaint in sign language. It will be recorded and converted into text by a sign language expert, he said. 

5. Kerala moves SC as President withholds assent for 4 Bills 

  • In an unprecedented move, the Kerala government on Saturday filed an appeal in the Supreme Court as President Droupadi Murmu has withheld assent for four Bills passed by the Kerala Legislature without disclosing any reasons. 
  • It has also moved the Court against Kerala Goverпог Arif Mohammed Khan's office for keeping the Bills pending for a long and indefinite period, and later reserving them for the consideration of the President. 
  • The act of the President in withholding the assent for the four Bills without giving any reason was highly arbitrary and in violation of Articles 14, 200 and 201 of the Constitution. The reference of the seven Bills to the President has to be recalled on the grounds of Constitutional morality, the State has argued. The State has listed the Secretary to the President, the Kerala Governor and the Additional Chief Secretary to the Governor as respondents in the writ petition filed before the Supreme Court. 
  • Kerala would be represented in the top court by a senior lawyer, specializing in Constitutional matters and C.K. Sasi, its Standing Counsel. 
  • The State contends that the actions of the Union government in advising the President to withhold assent to Bills passed by the Legislative Assembly 11 to 24 months back, which were wholly within the domain of the State government, subverted and disrupted the federal structure of the Constitution. It was also a grave encroachment into the domain entrusted to the State under the Constitution, it argued. 
  • The Governor, who reserved the seven Bills, avoided a decision from the Supreme Court by bundling up seven of the eight pending Bills and referring them to the President. The actions of the Governor lacked bona fides and were not in good faith. 
  • The reservation of the Bills by the Governor after keeping them pending for up to 24 months was a deliberate attempt to avoid carrying out his constitutional duty and functions under Article 200 of the Constitution. Hence the reference of the Bills to the President has to be held to be unconstitutional, the State would argue. 

6. Myriad hues for festival of colors in a non-toxic way 

  • A chemical laboratory in Nagaland has yielded a new range of non-toxic colors made from indigenous plants, offering Holi revelers a safe alternative to chemical-laced pigments. 
  • The "benign" powdered hues, made from edible items such as mustard leaves, coriander, spinach, beetroot, mulberry, turmeric, rose, hibiscus,Carrot, and rhododendron, were developed by the Corrosion and Electrochemistry Research Group (CERG) of Nagaland University's Department of Chemistry. 
  • The eco-friendly colors can have several applications beyond the festival, and could potentially fuel small-scale industries in the geographically challenged State, the group's researchers said. 
  • "We started working on extracting the colors Herbal Holi colors are made from indigenous plants from indigenous plants in time for Holi to demonstrate their safety," Ambrish Singh, who headed the project, told The Hindu. 
  • He said they studied the market and found there was enough space for natural colors as those available cause nausea, headache, itching, and skin irritation. The research scholars at CERG Therola Sangtam, Limasenla Longkumer, Vetezo Venuh, Akhiu Y. Yimchunger, and Vilabeilie Rutsa shortlisted the plants, fruits, and flowers for the team to work on. 
  • "The extracts were prepared and mixed slowly in several steps with starch and cornflour and then kept for drying at an optimum temperature. More extracts were added after the moisture evaporated and the mixture was ground thoroughly," Prof. Singh said. 
  • After removing any dust contamination, the powder was filtered several times to ensure that the particles were of the same size. The final product was tested and applied over the skin, the researchers said. The colours were found to be 100 

Science & Technology News 

7. Al chatbots to help with your mental health, despite limited evidence they work 

  • Download the mental health chatbot Earkick and you're greeted by a bandana-wearing panda who could easily fit into a kids' cartoon. 
  • Start talking or typing about anxiety and the app generates the kind of comforting, sympathetic statements therapists are trained to deliver. The pan- da might then suggest a guided breathing exercise, ways to reframe negative thoughts or stress-manage- ment tips. 
  • It's all part of a well-established approach used by therapists, but please don't call it therapy, says Earkick co-founder Karin Andrea Stephan. 
  • "When people call us a form of therapy, that's OK, but we don't want to go out there and tout it," says Staphan, a former professional musician and self-described serial entrepreneur. The question of whether these artificial intelligence-based chatbots are delivering a mental health service or are simply a new form of self-help is critical to the emerging digital health industry and its survival. 
  • But there's limited data that they actually improve mental health. And none of the leading companies have gone through the FDA approval process to show they effectively treat conditions like depression. 
  • The U.K's National Health Service has also begun offering a chatbot called Wysa to help with stress, anxiety and depression among adults and teens. 
  • Ross Koppel of the University of Pennsylvania worries these apps, even when used appropriately, could be displacing proven therapies for depression and other disorders. serious 
  • "There's a diversion effect of people who could be getting help either through counseling or medication who are instead diddling with a chatbot," said Koppel, who studies health technology. 

Ranks & Schemes News 

8. New curriculum, books for Classes 3 to 6, says CBSE 

  • The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) will release a new syllabus and textbooks for Classes 3 to 6 while there will be no change in the curriculum and textbooks for other grades for the academic year 2024-25 commencing from April 1, according to CBSE officials. 
  • The NCERT has informed the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) that the new syllabi and textbooks for Classes 3 and 6 are currently under development and will be released soon, the education board said in a communication sent to affiliated schools. 
  • "Consequently, schools are advised to follow these new syllabi and textbooks for Classes 3 and 6 in place of textbooks published by NCERT till the year 2023," said Joseph Emmanuel, Director (Academics), CBSE. 
  • "Additionally, a bridge course for Class 6, and concise guidelines for Class 3 are being developed by the NCERT for facilitating a seamless transition for students to new pedagogical practices and areas of study aligned with the new curriculum framework, 2023. These resources will be disseminated to all the schools online once they are received from NCERT. The Board will also organize capacity-building programs for school heads and teachers to orient them with the new teaching learning perspectives as envisioned in NEP-2020," he added in the letter. 
  • In a revision of the National Curriculum Frame- work (NCF) after 18 years, the Union Education Ministry had last year notified the changes. The council is in the process of preparing new school textbooks in line with the new NCF for school education (NCF-SE) 2023 as a part of the implementation of the National Education Policy. 
  • The board has also advised the schools to follow the NCF-SE recommendations and incorporate methodologies such as multilingualism, art-integrated education, experiential learning, and pedagogical plans, wherever feasible. "Schools are advised to align their practices with the recommendations delineated in NCF-SE, 2023. This includes adherence to guidelines concerning content, pedagogical strategies, assessment methodologies, and other pertinent areas as communicated by the board from time to time," CBSE further said in the letter.

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