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Great Indian bogus band
- Cancer symbol spawns flood of fakes

The original: A yellow rubber wristband with LIVESTRONG etched on the outside and Made in China on the inside. Priced at $1, it is available only in the US and UK.

The fake: A yellow rubber wristband with LIVESTRONG etched on the outside and Made in China on the inside. Priced anything between Rs 20-100, it is flying off the racks at Vardaan Market, AC Market and the like.

The only ' and telling 'difference is that each original Livestrong wristband is meant to contribute funds for and raise awareness about cancer through the Lance Armstrong Foundation, while the fake one just fuels a fad and fills the coffers of pirates in Bangkok or Taiwan.

'The wristband is selling like hot cakes. In the past month, I've sold at least 100' people come and ask for it by name,' said a shop-owner at Vardaan Market who stocks the bands ' fakes, of course.

Nike, the original manufacturer, has no immediate plans of bringing Livestrong to India.

From sellers to wearers in Calcutta and other metros, very few are aware of the story ' of cycling legend Lance Armstrong's battle against cancer ' or the cause behind the yellow band.

Compare those taking the cancer cause for a ride with those who wear the real thing with a purpose.

'The idea is that the money should flow back to the foundation,' observed Veeresh Oberoi, managing director of MetalJunction, who was gifted a Livestrong band six months ago by a relative in the UK. 'It's very sad if this becomes a style item and people start wearing the fakes.'

Some have even gone out of their way to get the originals.

'Armstrong is a huge hero for me. When I saw sporting stars wearing the band and learnt that Armstrong had developed it, I asked a friend in the UK. He had to get it from the US,' said Sourav Chatterjee, of an event management company. Later, he got a band for everyone in office.

The original Livestrong band is available to countries outside the US and UK through the Lance Armstrong Foundation website (www.laf.org). Produced only in yellow ' the colour of Armstrong's Tour de France jersey ' it sells in packs of 10, 100, and 1,200 to raise $5 million for the foundation.

But in Calcutta, it is available in all colours ' from fluorescent blue to plain white. The counterfeit's plastic pouch even bears the logos of Nike and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Armstrong fans have no way of telling the true from the false.

'I saw it first on Armstrong's wrist at the finishing line of Tour de France. Later, I saw him talk about it on Oprah Winfrey,' recalled 17-year-old Deepanjan Burman Roy.

And then, he saw the band ' a fake ' selling at a Wood Street lifestyle store for Rs 100.

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