Editorial 1/ Welcome and wise
Editorial 2/ Across the net
Daylight robbery
Extending the silence in the valley
fifth column/ Its a battle, not sports any more
Letters to the Editor

The explicit support of the United Nations secretary general, Mr Kofi Annan, for a bilateral resolution of India-Pakistan problems has, as expected, been widely welcomed in India. What is particularly heartening is that the UN secretary general made the pronouncements in Pakistan in the presence of senior officials of the military regime. There are two aspects of Mr Annan’s statement that merit attention. The UN secretary general made it explicit that UN resolutions on Kashmir were not enforceable. This was stating the obvious, but it was important that the head of the international organization reiterate this position at a time when Pakistan has sought to create confusion by equating resolutions that were enforced in East Timor with those that were passed in 1949 on Kashmir. While the resolutions on East Timor were passed under Chapter VII of the UN charter, which deals with “enforcement” mechanisms in cases of aggression, those on Kashmir fell under Chapter VI that focuses on the pacific settlement of disputes. Resolutions under Chapter VI cannot be unilaterally enforced, but require the support and cooperation of both parties to the dispute. It was India, it may be recalled, that took the matter to the UN, and has since the mid-Fifties held that the resolutions, in the light of changed circumstances, are outdated and thus irrelevant.

The UN secretary general also emphasized the need for India and Pakistan to return to the “spirit” of the Lahore declaration that would require “restraint, wisdom and constructive steps from both sides”. This focus on Lahore and bilateralism will be widely appreciated in India particularly since General Musharraf’s military regime in Pakistan has sought to distance itself from the declaration and even signalled its belief that the Nawaz Sharif government had signed the documents without “adequate preparation.”

It is important to emphasize that part of the UN secretary general’s support for India’s position stems from the wide appreciation of New Delhi’s new policies on Kashmir. Nearly every government of consequence has supported the ceasefire, and explicitly demanded that militant groups and Pakistan reciprocate the move to help create the atmosphere for a dialogue. It is easy these days to forget that through much of the Nineties, New Delhi had waged a fierce diplomatic battle in international fora to prevent an internationalization of the Kashmir issue even as it was repeatedly castigated for human rights violations. Fortunately, the situation has now dramatically changed and, at least in part, because of New Delhi’s recent initiatives. Not only are there few, if any, supporters of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy but there is also increasing international recognition that the army of Islamic jihadis that are being produced in the large number of madrassas in Pakistan could unleash terror even beyond south Asia. The government no longer needs to feel “besieged” internationally on Kashmir, but it must recognize that a continued imaginative and sensitive handling of the province, domestically, could win it even greater support internationally. While the government can take some comfort from Mr Annan declaring UN resolutions on Kashmir as irrelevant and unequivocally expressing his support for the Lahore declaration, it must continue with its efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people. It must also consider whether the time has come to open a limited dialogue with Pakistan.


While in Calcutta a group of Indian sportsmen perform miserably in a team game, an individual has shown that Indians can be world champions in a game that demands individual skills. Pullela Gopichand won the All England Badminton championship while Indian cricketers are struggling to retain a modicum of respectability. India has produced many talented and motivated individuals who have captured the international limelight in their chosen fields. Yet as a nation India has never quite made it to the big league. This paradox is nowhere more noticeable than in the arena of sports but it is visible in other activities too. Gopichand’s triumph in the most important badminton tournament and the recent win of Vishwanathan Anand in the world chess championship only drive home the point.

Gopichand’s win automatically harks back to a similar victory over 20 years ago. On that occasion, the victor was Prakash Padukone, who not surprisingly, is Gopichand’s guru. Gopichand’s victory smells all the sweeter because it was in no way expected. He came to the tournament in the position of an underdog. He was ranked number 10. Just over a year ago, he was ranked at number 50 in the world. He put all this behind him by winning the championship which is considered the Wimbledon of badminton. Gopichand’s complete control over the tournament is evident from the fact that he did not drop a single game. He defeated in the semi-finals, Peter Gade of Denmark who is world number one, and in the final he won over Ji Xinpeng of China who is the Olympic champion. This makes him the de facto world champion. The de jure recognition should not be long in coming. It is significant that Gopichand was nurtured in the academy that Padukone set up to take badminton away from the control of non-players who managed the game in India. There are no better guides and managers of players than former players. Players best look after their own interests. Gopichand’s achievement is the best proof of this statement. Indians quickly make icons of their sporting heroes. That fate awaits Gopichand. It is to be hoped that such exaggerated attention will not stand in the way of his becoming an even better player.


There is one special reason to feel grateful to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in New Delhi. It has buried, good and proper, the long-standing hypocrisy of the Indian ruling class of promising to look after the poor and downtrodden. The no-nonsense Union budget is blatantly pro-rich as well as anti-labour and anti-lower middle class. The finance minister has not tried to hide his attitude and bias. He has made it clear that he means business: the poor and the lower classes have no business to aspire to survive in the Indian polity. The rich, he has pronounced without the least hesitation, are going to rule henceforth, and for ever, in this system. So far so good. The budget however has another objective, the manner of implementing which has not been accompanied by a similar transparency.

Allies of the BJP in the coalition include the Telugu Desam Party, which has grown into adulthood sustained by the slogan of a drastic restructuring of Centre-state relations, with an accelerating pace of transfer of administrative, judicial and economic prerogatives from the Centre to the states. True, the thunder of N.T. Rama Rao does not suit N. Chandrababu Naidu’s style. That has still not prevented the latter from asserting the rights of states, such as his own, when a specific administrative or economic decision has gone against them. Whenever the Andhra Pradesh chief minister has spoken out on any issue, New Delhi’s government has responded speedily to assuage his feelings during the past three years.

But times are a-changing, and a process has perhaps begun on the part of the Centre to take Naidu for granted. Anyway, a kind of friction had arisen. Naidu thought the recommendations of the 11th finance commission discriminated against a number of states, including Andhra Pradesh. He insisted on a revision of the recommendations. The Centre was under pressure and in April last year it directed the commission to consider a number of additional terms of reference. The commission duly obliged; the government of India has now accepted in full the second set of its recommendations.

But thereby hangs a major tale. The Union government, in the course of these additional terms of reference for the commission, had asked it to draw up “a monitorable fiscal reform programme aimed at reduction of revenue deficit of the states”. The commission was also asked to indicate “the manner in which the grants to the states to cover the assessed deficit in their non-plan revenue account may be linked to progress in the implementation of the reforms programme”.

The 11th finance commission has been impeccably his-master’s-voice. It has taken the additional terms of reference as an oracular message. It has not bothered to take into account the grave constitutional implications of the government fiat. For the funds a finance commission is asked to devolve every five years under Article 275 of the Constitution belong to the national exchequer; these are not by any stretch resources under the command and control of the Union government. A certain proportion of the funds the commission would allocate to the states, the Constitution categorically enjoins, is for the purpose of covering the deficit in the revenue account of the states. Those states which do not experience a deficit in the revenue account will not come under the purview of the commission in this instance.

That apart, the Constitution nowhere indicates the requirement of considering the opinion of a monitoring agency before funds are to be allocated to cover the aforementioned deficit. The entire procedure suggested by the 11th finance commission, and accepted by the Centre, therefore falls foul of the Constitution. And there is more to it. The commission has the temerity to suggest that 15 per cent of the money, which, according to a strict reading of the Constitution, automatically belongs to the states for covering the deficit in the revenue account, should be at first withheld.

The release of the held-back funds will, in each case, depend upon whether the states satisfy the criteria set by the Centre’s fiscal reforms measures. The funds withheld, the commission has further suggested, should go to an incentive fund, from out of which awards will be granted to those states which comply with the conditions laid down by the Union government, while disobedient states are to be penalized and cut off from resources the Constitution had arranged for them.

All this is cheeky in the extreme. The device proposed by the finance commission, and accepted with alacrity by the Union government without the leave of the inter-state council, smacks of daylight robbery. The states, which refuse to toe the Centre’s line, are to be victimized and those which acquit themselves to be the most faithful servants of the Centre are to be offered additional funds. The Union budget presented on the last day of February has devoted gratuitous space to dwell gloatingly on this piece of constitutional outrage.

It is amazing that the state governments are yet to rise in unison against this affront. As far as information goes, only one state government, that of Kerala, has reacted sharply and questioned the constitutional propriety of the suggested measures. It has demanded that the issue be reviewed in extenso by the inter-state council before the proposal to rob states-right-Peters to pay subservient Pauls is finalized. In case the Centre persists in its intransigence, the priority for the state governments ought to be to submit a writ petition to the Supreme Court and seek an injunction on the Union government’s move.

It is yet to be seen whether the Chandrababu Naidus are receptive to this idea, or decide shortsightedly that, never mind the constitutional impropriety, should the Centre consider their states, such as Andhra Pradesh, as exemplary good boys, perhaps they would gain extra goodies in case the proposal goes through. But suppose a less Andhra Pradesh-friendly government comes to power at the Centre, would it not then cook the goose of Naidu and others of his ilk?

Ideas are contaminating, and the pompous set which is described as the prime minister’s economic advisory council has drawn inspiration from the 11th finance commission’s capriciousness. Taking the cue from the commission, the planning commission too, the council has suggested, should make up its mind to withhold initially a certain part of the plan allocations made for each state; the withheld funds are to be disbursed subsequently only if the states behave properly in the matter of fiscal discipline. The following are the exact words the economic advisory council has used: “from the 10th Plan onwards, i.e., starting from 1.4.2002, half of the normal Central assistance to state plans should be provided on the basis of a quantitatively worked out fiscal reform plan”, and “release of Central assistance during the year should be linked to achievement of milestones of policy action agreed by the states as part of the 10th Plan exercise”.

Evidently, the economic advisory council is a harder taskmaster than the 11th finance commission. The latter has suggested the withholding of only 15 per cent of the grants assessed to cover the revenue account deficit of the states; the council, much blither in spirit, would hold back as much as 50 per cent of the plan assistance already decided for a state in case it fails to meet the stern test of the Centre’s fiscal programme.

Again, till now, only the government of Kerala has protested against the economic advisory council’s gadflyish recommendation. This time a mere meeting of the inter-state council will not satisfy it; it has requested that the national development council be immediately convened to discuss the issue.

The erosion of the fiscal rights of the states is obviously gathering speed. Some months ago, the prerogative of the states granted by the Constitution to decide the rates of sales tax leviable on different commodities — the most important source of revenue for them — was taken away. The prospect of even greater revenue erosion looms large once the value added tax is introduced at the state level within the next few years. The threat at the moment comes from two other directions.

The BJP has a game plan. It wants to swing the country into pre-history. As demonstrated by the budget, it also wants to liquidate the nation’s poor and the lower middle classes. But the agenda is not yet complete. Whatever rights the Constitution has enshrined for the states, the BJP wants to obliterate them in order to usher in a unitary, totalitarian Hindu regime. Those politicians, who think to the contrary, have had enough prior notice; history will have contempt for them if they fail to take heed of the early as well as late warning signals.


On February 23, the government of India yet again extended the unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir by another three months. Despite the pessimism prevailing in the neighbourhood and the expected rejection of the ceasefire by the non-Kashmiri militants, the extension is the logical, correct and courageous path to peace in the troubled valley.

A state can bring peace to a politically or socially disturbed region if it follows a chosen route with firmness and resolve. An uncertain policy is the antithesis of successful counter-insurgency operations. It breeds confusion in the security forces and the people who want to help them, thereby blunting the states’ tools. If ceasefire is the route, it should be followed with determination.

There are really only two successfully proven methods to overcome an insurgency. One is by increasing the levels of financial corruption to such degrees that the support base of the insurgents is bought out from under their feet. The British put this method into operation in Malaya in the Fifties and subverted the insurgency from within. The British won, and the communists lost.

The other method is to raise the level of violence to unbearable proportions so that the unarmed population that sustains the insurgency surrenders to the might of the state. This was the method adopted by Pakistan during the Baluch uprising in the Seventies. Memories of the violence still haunt the pastoral Baluch as they move from one place to another. Many never even went back to Pakistan. None of these methods, however, was adopted for tackling the insurgency in Kashmir.

The government of India was initially taken aback by the scale and sophistication of the insurgency in Kashmir when it broke out in end-1989. As is its wont, it did not read the warning signs properly. The Indian state took about two years to get its counter-insurgency machinery in place and functional. And it was not until the mid-Nineties that it appeared to have some kind of a grip on the situation.

It was relaxed, by default, when the Kargil war began in May 1999. In the months that followed Pakistan’s defeat on the heights of Kargil, it seemed that the scale of militancy had swung back to what it was in 1990. It was only after another six months that the state managed to get back in control of the situation. It was in that environment that the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, offered his historical Ramadan ceasefire initiative. After all, a state can only offer a ceasefire to insurgents if it is in control of the situation.

India reached this far in its counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir without using money or violence. There might have been excesses, but never as part of a pattern. In fact, even helicopters were not used in the valley until the end of 1999. If India has reached this far, it is because of conditions prevailing within the disturbed state itself. It needs to be remembered that both insurgency and operations to counter it are entirely dependent on the will of people, who can either sustain an insurgency or defeat it. In the jungles of Malaya, the lure of money defeated the call of the communists. And in the arid landscape of Baluchistan, the firepower of the Pakistani state broke the spirit of the Baluch. In Kashmir, the plodding operations of the security forces, willing to take casualties, broke the determination of the people who thought independence was just round the corner. They also gave up for another reason.

The difference between the Kashmir insurgency and that elsewhere is the involvement of the external factor — the role played by another state. The Kashmiri will broke when Indian determination was juxtaposed with Pakistan’s unwillingness. Having convinced the Kashmiris that the Pakistan army would move in to open the road to Muzaffarabad and Islamabad, the general headquarters in Rawalpindi did not stir an inch into the valley. When the Pakistan army did move after a decade, it was on the heights of Kargil, far away from the soul of the insurgency — the valley.

Its defeat there was the last straw for the Kashmiris. The people turned away from the militants and violence. No opinion poll is required to prove that point, just a refresher of what Abdul Majid Dar, the salaar aala or chief commander of the Hizbul Mujahedin, said at that historic press conference last July, would suffice. “It is a fact that without the assistance of Pakistan, it was not possible to sustain the movement. But we are sons of this soil and no other person can understand the sufferings we are undergoing…The fact is that this is an indigenous movement and all the Mujahedin commanders with me are locals…We conducted grassroots surveys for two and a half months before taking this decision and we have the consent of the local people,” said Dar. No more evidence is required to press the case.

Pakistan, however, refuses to accept this evidence. If further proof is required, one should take the simple instance that since the initiation of the ceasefire, the Hizbul Mujahedin has not undertaken any operations against the security forces. Claims of operations by the Hizbul Mujahedin are being made in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, not by the local commanders in the valley.

That should serve as ample corroboration of Dar’s theory on the “consent of the people” and in which direction that assent lies. Pakistani groups, not the Kashmiris, have launched the militarily insignificant, but tactically outrageous suicide operations. They have also been targeting unarmed Kashmiris. Of the seven who have died recently, most were killed by the Pakistan-based jihadis.

Which raises questions once again about the policy Islamabad is pursuing over Kashmir. Pakistan’s continued rejection of the ceasefire and unwillingness to rein in the jihadis that it has unleashed, shows an unsavoury truth — the inability to see beyond the use of violence as a negotiating tool.

The state of Pakistan has become wedded to an approach to international relations that was once characteristic with regard to Afghanistan. Diplomacy through blackmail is a recipe that proved to be successful in the Eighties for reasons that simply don’t exist today, neither in the region nor in the world. And if Pakistan has become habituated to this practice, it is because of a belief in the inviolability of its nuclear weapons status. It continues to hold the world at a ransom on the basis of its overt nuclearization.

The rejection of the path to peace in Kashmir is an outcome of that vanity, as is its unwillingness to make sense out of the Afghanistan imbroglio. The world does not owe Pakistan a favour for Afghanistan and the departure of the Red Army in 1989, as Islamabad deludes itself. The nuclearization of Pakistan is in itself a favour bestowed on Islamabad by Washington with interest compounded many times over.

Pakistan has used this recipe to bluff the Kashmiris, who have since seen through it. India called the bluff over Kargil, and Pakistan blinked. It is a matter of time before the world calls Pakistan’s bluff. But it may be too late by then for Pakistan to retrace its steps.


Escalating aggression and violence are disturbing global phenomena. Over the years, these have silently crept into the hitherto hallowed precincts of sport, destroying treasured old world values. Obscene language and gestures, frequent punch-ups and brawls topped with karate kicks, are the icing on the television cake which feeds the vicar- ious appetite of the hooked-on masses. It seems that all this is not enough.

Recently, it has been reported that the Americans are starting a new football league named XFL under different rules. American football, currently played under the National Football League, with its aggressive, intimidating muscular hunks in massive shoulder padded uniforms, is frightening enough. The XFL promoters are promi- sing a “rougher, tougher and quicker paced” game and have described the current style of football as “lily-white, pasteurized, homogenized”!

The names of the American teams reek with violence. The Orlando Rage, the Memphis Maniacs suggest hulking killers on the loose and promise bruising contests at gladiatorial levels. Perhaps, they may have a team of “exalted rapists” lurking in the wings. Television analysis by former World Wrestling Federation professional wrestler, now governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, and strategically placed microphones even on individual players will push hype to dizzier levels.

The real men

Rugby seems to be a pale British equivalent of American football. It is compulsory in British public schools and is considered a character-builder ever since the British victory at Waterloo. Rugby is meant to teach participants to control and mask their emotions and stay calm even under extreme physical provocation. The essence of sporting behaviour was to be master of your emotions.

Rudyard Kipling, in his poem titled “If”, set the demanding standards of being a real man. Amongst other noble thoughts, there was the following gem which adorns the Centre Court waiting room at Wimbledon. “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/ And treat those two impostors just the same.”

In today’s world, television sponsors want emotions on display bright as neon signs and brought to the boil with frequent highs. This is an explosive mix. The sports regulating bodies are trying to contain the increasing emotional outbursts by paltry fines and suspensions.

At a recent Futures tournament, which is the lowest rung of the international tennis ladder, held at Calcutta, I was stunned to see the aggression with which the matches were contested. Cries of deep anguish rent the air when opportunities were missed. Disputed line calls resulted in frequent verbal duels between players, umpires and referees. It was like a battlefield, not a sports arena.

War cries

The clenched fist punched violently into the air has become the symbol of victory in all sports. In some cases, it is done with so much force that it seems to be just one step short of a pre-martial cry, with a triumphant foot on the slain adversary. One no longer has to be magnanimous in victory.

The sports arenas of the colleges in the United States have recently been compared to Roman coliseums, swarming with sports gladiators masquerading as students. They churn out the raw material from which the robotic champions are chiselled.

The word, “cricket”, at one time used as a measure of fair play has plummeted into bookmakers’ satchels. Tennis is trying out new scoring systems with sets reduced to four games instead of six to feed the voracious appetite for more frequent highs of television viewers. Golf, till now a symbol of good behaviour, is showing cracks in the fabric. Tiger Woods, at the summit of golf’s highest peak, has exulted with clenched fist. For me, it would be divine if he could just doff his cap.

I am no scholar of history, but it seems to me that the burgeoning appetite for more violence and ruthless winners are early symptoms of a degenerating society. It is comparable to the period of gladiatorial entertainment before the fall of the mighty Roman empire. Money has given the thumbs down to sport and Kipling’s treasured book of verse with its lofty ideals has been put firmly on the shelf of history.



Survey the mess

Sir — The report, “Quake destroyed the present, survey saheb wrecks future” (March 8), about bribes being collected by surveyors who are supposed to assess the extent of damage to the houses of the poor affected by the earthquake, evokes nothing but hatred. The inhumanity and insensitivity it reveals is shocking and so is man’s avarice, as it comes through. That an earthquake victim, who is not even in a position to provide a square meal to his family, should be asked for a bribe shows that the surveyors have neither a mind, nor a conscience. One hopes that the report gets the attention it deserves from the authorities and the strongest possible punishment is meted out to the offenders. It is ironical that the calamity, which has brought out the best in men, as evident from the numerous instances in which men have forgotten their caste and creed to help the survivors, has also been a mirror to the basest of human instincts. There should be an end to the horrors in Gujarat.
Yours faithfully
Ranjit Kumar Guha Roy, Dubai

Willow talk

Sir — I was dreaming aloud about how much I would like to be in the sun and amidst the chaos of my beloved city than be here in this Boston suburb. My colleague said that he could understand me till I disclosed that all this trouble was merely to watch a sport that lasts for five days and in which my team would most probably be a loosing contender. After reading the editorial, “Calcutta can play cricket” (March 11), I reminded myself how naive I had been minutes ago in romanticizing a cricket match at the Eden Gardens.

Perhaps we could reflect on what has brought about this change. Affluence in India has over the years become associated with elegance and elitism. Culture and elegance were, till the fading days of the raj, not necessarily determined by wealth. And the nouveau riche did their best to strengthen this mindset. Cricket in the subcontinent, no matter how popular, used to be perceived as an elitist sport. Unlike the Caribbean islands, cricket here had never been absorbed into the fabric of everyday life. The plebeian always maintained a respectful distance from it. At least till the late Eighties.

However, in the last decade or so a small-scale socio-economic revolution has happened in the country. A vulgar display of money (often made nefariously), has come to the forefront of affairs. And cricket has been one of its worst victims. A lot is said about cable television and one-day internationals debasing the game — but they are not the source of the problem. Although cricket has become a brutally professional sport all over the world and thus has lost its earlier spirit, nowhere else in the world has cricket stooped to such a low level as in India and Pakistan. That this should to happen to Calcutta is heart-breaking. A city once known as the cultural hub of the nation, Calcutta has perhaps irredeemably lost its precious sporting spirit and its great love — cricket.

Yours faithfully,
Atanu Neogi, via email

Sir — Indian cricket bosses have done it again (“Borde outburst makes it easier for the Aussies”, March 4). More than a year ago it was Jaywant Lele, who happily engaged himself in crystal gazing, predicting a whitewash for the touring Indians in Australia.

The impact he had on the cricketers and their performance needs no reminiscing. Chandu Borde, of course, has gone one up on Lele. His public censure of Sourav Ganguly and the team management has turned the Indian team into an object of derision among the Aussies and the visiting media. Borde’s comments only reveal the indifference and ignorance that is prevalent among cricket administrators and selectors when it comes to how we project ourselves in the international sporting arena.

Yours faithfully,
Pradipta Acharya, Calcutta

Sir — The outburst of the Indian chief selector, Chandu Borde, for the humiliating defeat our team suffered at the hands of the Australians in Mumbai is very discouraging. He should have remembered that the visiting team has a record of 15 straight victories against most test-playing countries of the world.

No one seriously expected India to pull off a victory against the Australians, and certainly not when the Indian side has a particularly weak bowling line-up.

There has been talk about favouritism on the part of the cricket administrators from Mumbai towards players from Maharashtra. It is not that Indian players lacked talent — just that the basis of selection of the players has never quite been free from bias. At a time the Indian team is already playing the test series against Australia, the selectors are still thinking about choosing players. We should learn a lesson from the Pakistanis and the Sri Lankans, who have successfully chosen talents like Saqlain Mushtaq and Muthiah Muralitharan respectively.

Also, it is not as if we do not have good players at all. Failure to win a test against a team like Australia should never be attacked from this perspective. Our administrators should not take it upon themselves to so thoroughly demoralize the players that they cannot even perform to the best of their abilities.

Yours faithfully,
K.R. Bakshi, Bokaro

Sir — Why should the chairman of the Indian selectors be criticized for calling a spade a spade? And if his verbal thrashing has deflated the morale of the Indian cricketers, then surely one can ask what, in the recent past, a high morale has achieved for the Indian team. Little else but losses.

Yours faithfully,
Soumya Saha, Calcutta

Comrade and gentleman

Sir — The obituary, “Gentleman communist who spoke his mind” (Feb 21), was touching. Indrajit Gupta’s loyalty to parliamentary norms and discipline sets a useful example for our present-day members of Parliament. The ambience in the house would be radically different if the majority MPs had Gupta’s attitude. Gupta believed in clean and value-based politics. Age too could not dampen his spirit. His razor sharp comments, quick wit and amiable disposition made him a much-loved and much-respected politician.
Yours faithfully,
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge

Sir — The death of Indrajit Gupta has caused an irreparable loss to the communist and trade union movements in India. He was a man of conviction and a true leader. It is going to be difficult to fill the void he has left in the Communist Party of India.

Yours faithfully,
Naren Sen, Howrah

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