Mamata calls distress meet on Midnapore
Threat call takes police to kidnappers
Jaya divorces Congress, courts third force
Atal leaves UP in Advani hands
Sonia diktat for salary sacrifice
King, queen but no place for crown prince
Journalist in treason net
Pig-heart surgeon back with super-dream
Tehelka panel notice to George
Flash flood fury in Agartala

Calcutta, June 6: 
Mamata Banerjee has convened a meeting of Trinamul Congress MLAs and defeated candidates from Midnapore to ascertain the reasons for the party�s poor performance in the Assembly poll and discuss steps to strengthen the organisation at the grassroots level. The meeting will be held in Calcutta on Sunday.

The party won 10 of the 37 seats in violence-ravaged Midnapore.

Pankaj Banerjee, leader of Trinamul�s legislature party, said in Calcutta today that the meeting would also review the post-poll situation in the district in the wake of the �CPM�s renewed offensive against our party workers�.

Banerjee ruled out any discussion on rejoining the NDA. �The only agenda of the meeting is to discuss the post-poll problems being faced by the district leaders and organisational issues. We will also try to work out a strategy to ensure safety of our supporters who have fallen victim to the CPM�s wrath after the Assembly elections,� he said.

Apart from Mamata and Banerjee, Trinamul leaders like Subrata Bakshi and Mukul Roy will attend Sunday�s meeting. District leaders who are expected to take part in the discussions are district Trinamul president Pradyot Ghosh, Sisir Adhikari, Dinen Ray and Mohammad Rafique, who lost to Sushanta Ghosh in Garbeta (East). The 10 legislators who won the polls and the five municipal chairmen will be present.

Midnapore leaders have strong reservations about the role of bureaucrats in the party such as Bikram Sarkar, Nitish Sengupta and Dipak Ghosh who, they alleged, had misguided Mamata in choosing candidates from the key district.

Most of these leaders, owing allegiance to Adhikari � MLA and chairman of the Contai municipality � hold the former bureaucrats responsible for the selection of essentially �non-political candidates�.

These leaders believe the party had committed a mistake by nominating some owners of liquor shops and rich men. They also alleged that relief material worth lakhs of rupees, meant for distribution among the victims of CPM�s �terror� in Keshpur, Garbeta, Sabang, Pingla and Danton, were taken away by some groups. The leaders will urge Mamata to take a personal initiative to revive the organisation in these areas where Trinamul drew a blank.

Adhikari�s detractors like Dinen Ray and Rafique, however, attribute their defeats to the �wrong constituencies� offered to them. �Some Calcutta-based leaders misguided our party chief to allocate the wrong Assembly seats,� they said.

Leaders, belonging to both factions, however, have underscored the need for revamping the organisation at the booth level. Some of them feel it is time Mamata removed �the coterie which has so far guided her� and decentralised the organisation. �She should change the entire set-up if she really intends to fight a party like the CPM,� a Trinamul leader said on condition of anonymity.

Pradyot Ghosh demanded immediate organisational elections. �Only an election, and not selection, can save the party from further decay. Once organisational polls are held, the real workers will come to the forefront. We should get ready for the next panchayat polls from now,� he said.


Asansol, June 6: 
It was one call that sealed their fate. On the track of an inter-state gang of kidnappers, police yesterday busted the racket and arrested five people, including Ajay Singh, the alleged king-pin, from Murgasole and J.K. Nagar localities here.

The criminals had allegedly abducted at least five businessmen from Asansol and Dhanbad in as many years. All of them were released after they paid hefty sums as ransom.

The gang had made their last attempt in April this year, when they planned to kidnap the owner of a biscuit factory here, but the plan failed. After lying low during the elections, the kidnappers resumed making threat calls, this time to a businessman from Asansol.

Around 7 pm yesterday, one of the gangsters called up the businessman�s residence at Murgasole and his family members immediately alerted the police, said Niraj Singh, additional superintendent of police (Asansol).

�We knew the gang would call again and so we started monitoring the calls. We managed to trace the hideout and were able to nab the gang members, including the kingpin,� Singh said.


New Delhi, June 6: 
Will she, won�t she, join the third front that is. Jayalalitha is not saying, but Amma today gave ample hints which way she is likely to go as she called on CPI leader A.B. Bardhan � only the second-ever meeting between the two � and all but pledged to throw her weight behind the Left-led effort.

Both appeared pleased as punch after the 30-minute meet at the CPI headquarters. Jaya seemed more than eager to become a partner in the Jyoti Basu-led People�s Front, the resurrected third force. Bardhan indicated it was only a matter of time before the ADMK chief was formally invited to join. Discussions on her entry into the front, Jaya said, were making �slow and steady progress�.

If the imperious Tamil Nadu chief minister had shut the door on the NDA yesterday, never mind her shawl to the Prime Minister, Jaya today virtually washed her hands of the Congress, her ally in the state.

�I do not have an alliance with any party now. Our alliance with the Congress was only for the Assembly elections,� she told reporters, choosing to ignore the fact that her party is sharing power with the Congress in Pondicherry as a junior partner.

CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet, the navigator of the People�s Front, was not in town � he had left for London yesterday. �I will talk to him over the phone,� Jaya said.

�Nothing will come in the way of my relationship with the CPI. We have had cordial personal and political relations,� she added.

Bardhan said he would soon send Jaya a copy of the front�s common minimum programme, released last week.

Sources said Jaya made it clear to the CPI leadership that she had no intention of returning to the NDA. On the contrary, she wanted the People�s Front to take proper shape so that it could offer the people an alternative to the BJP and the Congress.

The front leaders don�t appear too perturbed about the string of corruption charges staring Jaya in the face; the chief minister herself, during the discussions today, seemed confident of being able to �manage� them.

According to the Representation of the People Act, Jaya will have to get herself elected to the Assembly within six months, but for that she will have to find a way of dodging the legal bar banning her from contesting polls because of her conviction in the Tansi land case. The chief minister, sources said, appeared to have thought of a way out of the problem. She told Bardhan that the Supreme Court decision to refer the cases to a constitutional bench was a �shot in the arm� for her.

The People�s Front is waiting for the Uttar Pradesh elections to be over before it starts expanding. Until now, the front leaders have not made any concrete proposals to Jaya.

�Had we invited her, she would have been in the front by now,� a Left leader said.

Since Mulayam Yadav is the main challenger to the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the front does not want to upset the balance now by encouraging new entrants.

But the response from the Left leadership suggests that Jaya, regardless of corruption charges, is welcome to join, though Laloo Yadav isn�t.

�The main problem is his alliance with the Congress, which Mulayam will not accept,� explained a Left leader.

Jaya, too, is opposed to the Congress, especially Sonia Gandhi. She holds the Congress president responsible for the failure to stitch together an Opposition alternative in 1999 by insisting on becoming Prime Minister and keeping Mulayam out.


New Delhi, June 6: 
The shadow of Uttar Pradesh has begun to loom large on the political configurations of the ruling establishment as well as the Opposition even as the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government are debating the merits and demerits of an early election.

Whether it is the proposed Cabinet reshuffle, roping in of new allies, economic reforms, or inducting Jayalalitha into the People�s Front � Uttar Pradesh seems to have a bearing on all these issues, directly or tangentially.

As Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and his entourage will be miles away from the political hub this month, the BJP brass, led by home minister L.K. Advani, is expected to go into periodic huddles to take stock of Uttar Pradesh.

Though Vajpayee�s political fate is linked directly to whether the BJP wins or loses the Assembly polls, BJP sources said, so far, he has not involved himself closely with the nitty-gritty of strategy planning and election management but has left it to Advani.

Yesterday, when the BJP kick-started its Uttar Pradesh preparations with the first big strategy session, presided over by Advani, Vajpayee was at a special screening of Aamir Khan�s film, Lagaan. But he chipped in by asking chief minister Rajnath Singh to �persuade� his Haryana counterpart and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) chief, Om Prakash Chautala, to stop being a stumbling block in the way of the BJP�s alliance with Ajit Singh.

The BJP is expected to take a final view of the Ajit partnership when the state executive meets in Saharanpur on June 15 and 16.

Apart from Chautala, opposition from within its own ranks, particularly from the Jat legislators of west Uttar Pradesh who fear they may have to forgo their own seats, has forced a rethink on the Ajit alliance.

But sources said the central leadership�s reading was: �Ajit is an asset even if he can help us increase our vote share by one or two per cent. So, even the Prime Minister is of the view that if Chautala has to be sacrificed at this juncture, it is worth it. And our own members can be persuaded to give up their opposition.�

One of the main reasons for putting off the Cabinet reshuffle was because the Ajit alliance did not fall into place. The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief has demanded a Cabinet berth as a price for his support to the BJP.

The organisational changes announced today by the BJP were apparently prompted by the importance of Uttar Pradesh. Deviating from a 20-year-old practice, party chief K. Jana Krishnamurthy has appointed two general secretaries to exclusively oversee the working of the organisation and election management without confining them to specific states.

Narendra Modi has been put in charge of the organisation and Pyarelal Khandelwal in charge of elections. Former BJP president, Kushabhau Thakre, a veteran in organisational management, will be in charge of Uttar Pradesh.

The Samajwadi Party has decided to focus on election management and think of striking alliances closer to the polls.


New Delhi, June 6: 
Congress MLAs, MPs, ministers and chief ministers will have to forgo one month�s salary as part of their contribution to party funds.

Sonia Gandhi has convened a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on June 9 to implement the Manmohan Singh panel report that has recommended sweeping changes to fill the party�s coffers.

The CWC is all set to strike off a defunct rule under vii (2) of the party�s constitution that makes it mandatory of every active member to shell out one per cent of net monthly income exceeding Rs 500.

There are more than one million active members, including some millionaires, who belong to the country�s oldest and biggest political party. However, virtually none of the members pay one per cent of their income to the party on a regular basis.

According to Sonia, the party lacks resources which is pinching hard its preparations for the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress is pitted against the formidable Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the BJP.

The Manmohan panel is of the view that the �impractical� provision of contributing one per cent of net income should be done away with.

The panel held a series of meetings with party leaders and state units before arriving at the conclusions. It wants Congressmen to strictly follow probity in public life.

Another recommendation is on accepting funds through cheques, but old-timers discount it as �impractical�. They said payment through cheques tend to be too little to meet even daily expenses of the party. �Some of the industrial houses pay a few lakhs, which is not enough even for a single parliamentary seat,� a party MP said.

In the post-Tehelka era, Sonia plans to embark on the high moral ground and take the lead in streamlining party funding. The issue came up at the Bangalore plenary where Sonia constituted a group led by Manmohan to look into all the aspects of party funding.

Another suggestion doing the rounds is that Sonia should host fund-raising lunches and dinners where guests would be expected to contribute for party funds.

But some party leaders are sceptical of the proposal on grounds that security around Sonia would not make it feasible.

Moreover, the western concept of fund-raising through dinners may not go down well with the Indian masses. Besides, the party would find it difficult to check antecedents of the guests attending such dinners.

Many party MLAs and MPs are reluctant to cough up a month�s salary as recommended by Manmohan. They said it would be an added burden on elected representatives.

�What about all those fat leaders making money who are not MLAs or MPs? Why should we be singled out to pay for all others who do not win,� an MP from Madhya Pradesh said.


Kathmandu, June 6: 
After the royal massacre, Nepal has found a new king, a queen � however unhappy they may be with the replacement set � but not a new crown prince.

When Prince Gyanendra was anointed king after Dipendra�s death and his wife, Komal, the queen and Paras Bikram Shah�s name stayed out of the royal roll, Nepalis found reflection of their apprehensions about Gyanendra�s youthful son in the decision. The king himself thought it prudent to remain silent on his successor � the crown prince�s position remains vacant.

Since Friday�s palace massacre, demonstrators on Kathmandu�s streets have been demanding that Paras be stripped of his royal immunity and prosecuted. �Will Paras ever become the crown prince?� an MP of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) shot back when asked about his fate in light of the popular campaign against him. Latent in the question is the belief that Paras will never be.

Like his cousin Dipendra, the late crown prince who was in love with a girl whose mother comes from the Gwalior royal family, Paras, too, has an Indian connection. He married Princess Himani of Sikar (Rajasthan) in January last year.

The Dipendra-Devyani Rana love story met with a tragic end, but for Paras � many Nepalis believe � tragedy lies in a character flaw.

During the general elections, the prince allegedly threatened a policeman with his revolver in an instance of a string of incidents testifying to an unenviably eventful life.

Ironically, one more reason for Paras�s stock dropping further in public esteem has been added with him escaping unhurt from the dinner party bloodbath. People are asking how he came out without a scratch when nine members of the royal family died in an indiscriminate spray of gunfire.

All day Tuesday, angry protesters laid siege to the palace gates and raised slogans against King Gyanendra and Prince Paras. �Gyanendra re Paras ho ashli hattiyara (Gyanendra and Paras are the actual killers. We don�t accept Paras as a prince,� they shouted.

�Paras is the biggest dada (goon) in the whole of Kathmandu. He never moves around without a gun. His infamous exploits at late-night discos too are legendary. How can we accept such a high-handed person as the new crown prince?� asks the owner of an upscale restaurant on the capital�s fashionable Darbar Marg.

Paras is famous in the social circles of Delhi, too, where he was known as the nephew of the king of Nepal.

Accounts of the wayward prince are dime a dozen. Paras was allegedly driving the blue Pajero that rammed into a motorcycle on August 6 last year, killing Praveen Gurung, a popular Nepali musician. The vehicle belonged to the King Mahendra Nature Conservation Trust whose chief patron is his father, King Gyanendra.

�An embarrassed royal family packed off Paras to the Far East for a couple of months till the heat on him died down,� said a Kathmandu-based journalist.

Despite reports in the local and foreign media of accounts of what happened at the bloody dinner suggesting that it was Dipendra who did the shooting, the cloud of suspicion sticks closely to Paras.

�The role of Paras during the fateful evening does really smell fishy. Paras has a reputation of whipping out his gun at the slightest provocation. How could he come out of the attack unhurt? Surely, you cannot make such a man the crown prince of Nepal,� said 24-year-old taxi driver Binod Chhettri.

Nepalis do not want to believe Dipendra could have committed the crime and they are more than ready to believe Paras did.


Kathmandu, June 6: 
As the Himalayan Kingdom showed signs of limping back to normal with the lifting of curfew during the day, police cracked down on a Nepali language daily, arresting its editor and two top officials on charges of �treason against the monarchy�.

Sources at the Kantipur group of publications, publishers of Kantipur, a popular Nepali language daily, said senior police officials this evening arrested the group�s managing director Kailash Sirohiya, director Binod Raj Gyawali and editor Yubhraj Ghimire.

Ghimire, who has worked with several media organisations in India, was with The Telegraph�s Delhi bureau. He had returned to Kathmandu yesterday after a trip to South Korea.

�The arrests were in connection with a byline post-editorial article by underground Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai in today�s edition of the daily,� sources said.

Bhattarai, who is second-in-command in the party hierarchy, has alleged that the entire conspiracy to annihilate King Birendra and his family members was hatched by Indian intelligence agencies in connivance with the new king Gyanendra and Prime Minister G.P. Koirala.

The article further said that since the late King Birendra took a �soft line� on the Maoists, the Indian imperialist forces were trying to turn Nepal into another �Sikkim�.

Even as police cracked down on the Nepali daily, violence erupted in several parts of Nepal with police and army having to fire in the air to quell violent demonstrators.

But there were signs of a return to normality after Friday night�s massacre at the Narayan Hity palace in which the entire royal family, including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, were killed.

Curfew was relaxed during the day for 12 hours but reimposed at Kathmandu and neighbouring Lalitpur from 9 pm to 3 am.

People formed long queues to pay homage to late King Birendra. Some shops reopened and vehicles were seen plying the streets past gun-toting police who appeared relaxed and chatted with passers-by.

After Friday�s palace massacre, authorities had to slap curfew in the capital and Lalitpur to quell violence that rocked the valley for two days in which at least four persons, including policemen, were killed and several injured.


Sonapur (Kamrup), June 6: 
Armed with the Tarun Gogoi ministry�s blessings, controversial cardiac surgeon Dhani Ram Baruah today met two city-based engineers to sketch the layout of a state-of-the-art hospital which, he claims, will �super, super-specialise� in transplantation of pig organs to human beings.

The ousted AGP-led government put the brakes on Baruah�s surgical experiments after he implanted a pig�s heart on Purno Saikia, a 32-year-old patient from Golaghat, in 1997. Saikia died of �severe septicaemia� a week after the operation, prompting former health minister Kamala Kalita to order the police to arrest Baruah and his team.

The change of guard in Dispur, however, seems to have paved the way for Baruah�s resurgence. New health minister Bhumidhar Barman said the Congress government would back the infamous surgeon if his intentions were honourable. �Unlike the previous government, we have an open mind and will support Baruah�s project if it boosts the state�s health sector,� he said.

Baruah told The Telegraph at his hilltop �Heart City� here that work on his �dream hospital�, to be modelled on the Scottish system and constructed in two phases, was likely to start this week.

The surgeon, who first shot to prominence by inventing an artificial heart valve, will hold another sitting with his engineers tomorrow to finalise the layout of his hospital.

Baruah�s hospital will have an air-conditioned pig sty to house the �donors�. It will initially have 120 beds and five operation theatres. Another 64 beds and three more operation theatres will be added within a year of the hospital being inaugurated, the surgeon said. The estimated expenditure on the project is $ 2 million.

Unlike in the past, when he went ahead with his experiments without taking the erstwhile AGP-led government into confidence, Baruah met both the chief minister and the health minister recently to apprise them about his pet project and proposed research on xeno-transplantation.

Barman said the government would consult experts on the issue before formally giving Baruah permission to carry on his research activities.

�Xeno-transplantation is a sensitive issue. I have asked Baruah to submit a detailed plan, which will be examined by our experts. We will then decide whether he deserves to get the green signal. I have told him that we appreciate his desire to do something for the advancement of medical science. We will always be there for those who are trying to bring about changes for the better in any field,� he said.

However, the health minister said experiments should be first conducted on animals. �If the experiments are successful, these can be tried on human beings,� he added.

Barman said the police case against Baruah would be reviewed and disposed of it was found untenable.

Baruah, who was in Glasgow for four months to get his project approved by experts and garner funds, met the health minister after discussing his plans with the chief minister during two meetings on May 29 and 30.

�Gogoi has extended his whole-hearted cooperation. He wants me to build a quality hospital,� Baruah said.

The Scottish Enterprise, an organisation formed under the auspices of the British government and the European Union, is likely to fund the project.

Baruah will be the chairman of the proposed hospital. It will have three directors � John Barbenel, a professor at Strathclyde University, Alan Farchney, a doctor, and John Fisher, a professor at Leeds University.

�We will have someone or the other from Scotland in the hospital round the year to oversee operations. It is going to be a very professional, yet humane, set-up. I will, of course, concentrate on xeno-transplantation,� Baruah said.

First on Baruah�s agenda is repair of the structure here, which was damaged in a storm on April 16.

�Everything was blown away. You can say the past was blown away. Four valuable years have been lost. It is time to make a new beginning,� the surgeon said.

�The AGP-led government was nothing but a bunch of looters and traitors. My detractors did not harm me, but the thousands of patients who would have benefited from my research. I could have easily settled down in Glasgow or Mumbai, but this hospital is a challenge. I will prove my detractors wrong,� he added.

The controversial surgeon claims to have convinced the Scottish Enterprise to fund the establishment of production facilities in Glasgow for heart valves that will be marketed world-wide by a London-based company.

�The Scottish Enterprise has decided to fund the project after conducting necessary investigations. It is a big honour. It is estimated that Baruah Cardiac Laboratories will do business worth $ 4 billion within six years,� he said.

In a letter to the chief minister, Baruah has pledged $ 0.6 billion for development of the state�s health and education sectors. �I will be glad to help if the government clearly states how it proposes to spend the money. I will try to collect more funds for the state through my contacts abroad,� he said.


New Delhi, June 6: 
In its first public hearing, the Venkataswami Commission, probing the Tehelka scandal, issued notices to former defence minister George Fernandes, national security adviser Brajesh Mishra, former minister of state for defence Hiren Pathak and defence secretary Yogendra Narayan.

Notices have also been sent to Samata Party leader Sriniwas Prasad, Maj. Gen. Shankar Prasad, V.P. Goel and Suresh Nanda. They have been asked to present their case before the commission.

Attorney-general Soli Sorabjee said the government would extend its cooperation to the commission by furnishing all relevant documents unless they had to be withheld in the interest of national security.

A written submission by Sorabjee said: �There should be no reluctance or hesitation about furnishing to the commission any relevant information and documents it desires to have, except in those cases where the imperatives of national security and national interest necessitate a claim for privilege made in accordance with law.�

The government, Sorabjee said, �is keen that true facts are ascertained and established so that those persons, who on the basis of credible and cogent evidence, are found to have indulged in wrong doings are appropriately dealt with�.

He added: �It is equally important that the cloud of suspicion based on surmises and speculation about persons, who are not implicated in any way, is dispelled and their honour and reputation are vindicated.�

The defence ministry has supplied relevant documents to the commission and the news portal,, has supplied an edited version of its tape running to four hours and an unedited version of the tape running to 100 hours. Justice K. Venkataswami has already seen the edited version of the Tehelka tapes and is now studying the transcripts of the undetected ones.

The commission had earlier issued summons to 29 persons, including former BJP president Bangaru Laxman, former Samata chief Jaya Jaitly and senior army officers, asking them to file affidavits, explaining in what context their names figured in the tapes.

The commission allowed the respondents to see the video tapes and take the copies of the transcript on payment. The commission�s counsel, Gopal Subramaniam, said the panel should fix a date for them to view the video tapes at the commission�s office and no further time should be granted to them for filing affidavits.

July 2 has been fixed as the next date of hearing.


Agartala, June 6: 
The onset of the monsoon has transformed the state capital into a waterworld of sorts as Tripura witnessed one of the worst flash floods in recent times.

Three persons were killed in torrential rain over the past three days here even as thousands took refuge in nearly 50 camps of the district administration in different localities.

While chief minister Manik Sarkar was forced to shift to the first floor of his official residence because of waterlogging, health minister Keshav Mazumder, information minister Jiten Chowdhury and a host of other dignitaries moved into the state circuit house after their residences were deluged by artificial floods.

More than 5,000 telephone connections were snapped because of damages due to waterlogging, telecom officials today said.

Official sources described the situation as �critical� as there were similar reports from North Tripura. Breaches in embankments along Manu, Dhalai and Longai rivers were also reported posing threats to Kailasahar, Kamalpur and Dharmanagar sub-divisions.

Tripura remained completely cut off from the rest of the country as the Assam-Agartala National Highway 44 was blocked following heavy landslides at Patharkandi in the neighbouring Karimganj.

Sources said Liton Das, a resident of Matripalli on the southern outskirts of the capital, was sucked into a cesspool of water while riding a bicycle. The second death took place in Banamalipur area when Shankar Debnath was electrocuted in his flooded house.

Sources said another youth died in the Abhaynagar locality. Nearly 50,000 slum dwellings were totally destroyed.

Attributing the crisis to �abnormally high rainfall�, officials said 194 mm of rainfall was recorded yesterday �which is a record�. The pre-monsoon rainfall between January and May was also more than 1,100 mm, more than the normal 800 mm, the sources added.

�In Tripura, the monsoon rainfall is about 2,150 mm but last year it was more and by all indications this time, the rainfall will be well above 3,000 mm till October,� a source in the meteorological department said.

They said shortly after the onset of monsoon, a massive depression, originating in the Bay of Bengal near Andaman Nicobar islands, headed fast towards Northeast via Orissa and stabilised over Mizoram. �Part of it deviated towards Bangladesh and started lashing Tripura since Tuesday morning,� the source said

The capital has been deluged also owing to the construction of embankments by Bangladesh across the border.

Highway closed

South Assam deputy-inspector of police, P.P. Singh, told The Telegraph here today that the army and Border Road Task Force jawans were pressed into service along with three BRTF bulldozers to clear debris on the highway linking south Assam, Mizoram and Tripura with the rest of the country.

He said incessant rain had impeded rescue operations. With the highway closed to traffic, hundreds of vehicles at Sonapur remained stranded. Nearly 300 men of the BRTF under the Union surface transport ministry are working to clear the highway.

Large parts of Cachar and Karimganj districts are now under the grip of a flash floods.


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