Govt sane voice amid doctor cacophony
Minister in dark over plan to buy paddy
Basu tutors youth wing to poach Mamata base
Early result boon turns bane for pupils
Sparring on the line of self-control
Almaty summit chants anti-terrorism mantra
Cuban crisis parallel
Army eyes scan for no-entry signs on LoC
Body bags on trains leave police at dead end
Andhra names duo for PWG talks

Calcutta, June 4: 
The government today sought to send a subtle message to the medical community saying that it did not belive the verdict in the Anuradha Saha case would sour the doctor-patient relationship in any way.

Articulating the government�s position, health minister Suryakanta Mishra asked the community � currently campaigning for two prominent city doctors held responsible by a lower court for causing Anuradha�s death through negligence and rash treatment � to look at the verdict from the patients� standpoint.

Mishra�s observation, according to observers, could force the doctors� lobbies on the defensive. Ever since the Alipore court held two consultants, Sukumar Mukherjee and Baidyanath Haldar, responsible for the death, the lobbies have been pressing the government to enter the picture on the doctors� side.

A doctor himself, Mishra said there is no reason to conclude at this point that a court verdict can affect the doctor-patient relationship in Bengal on the lines it is being feared.

�I do not think that the case will have any bearing on the relationship, there is another way to look at it. He (Kunal Saha) went to court because he wanted redress of his grievance,� Mishra said when asked to comment on the stand taken by the West Bengal Medical Council.

Mishra, however, was reluctant to comment directly on the Anuradha Saha case. �The government has nothing to say in this matter,� Mishra said. He pointed out that the government sent complaints against doctors directly to the Medical Council of India.

The state medical council had reacted to the judgment of May 28 that blamed the doctors for Anuradha�s death, saying the case had �driven a wedge� in the doctor-patient relationship.

The health minister said medical practitioners are aware that patients and their relatives can turn to court or any other forum for redress. �This is a right we all have if we feel for sure that we have been wronged by a doctor.�

He dismissed comments by the medical council that doctors would think twice before treating �risky� patients. �They (doctors) are bound to treat emergency cases,� he said.

The government�s intention of ensuring that hospitals provide proper treatment became clear when Mishra said a decision had been taken not to renew the licence of Ruby General Hospital after it lapses on June 15. The modern hospital had been under a cloud since it refused to admit a patient some time ago.

The health minister made it clear that the government did not wish to revoke the licence of any hospital and said all hospitals would have to follow the Clinical Establishments Act.

�I have asked the hospital (Ruby) authorities to meet the health secretary and given a written undertaking that they would not turn back critical patients,� Mishra said. The Ruby authorities have been asked to meet health secretary Asim Barman on Thursday. Their licence will be renewed every three months.

�This is applicable for government hospitals as well, but there are some problems regarding room in intensive care and intensive treatment units,� Mishra said.

The health department was in touch with Calcutta Telephones for a dial-up service to provide accommodation information. �Talks to have this centralised data bank is well underway, and soon people can dial a number and obtain information on availability of beds and facilities,� Mishra said.

The minister was critical of the private healthcare system in the city. �They should learn from hospitals in south India. In the south, the hospitals do not offer a package of Rs 15,000 and later furnish a bill of Rs 60,000. They should be more transparent,� Mishra commented.


Behrampore, June 4: 
At a time when rural Bengal is on the boil over plummeting prices of paddy and the resultant distress sale, agriculture marketing minister Chhaya Ghosh said she was unaware of any government initiative to procure the crop from farmers.

Ghosh, a senior Forward Bloc leader from Murshidabad district, today said she had no knowledge of any government plan to buy paddy from farmers at Rs 530 per quintal. �As agriculture marketing minister, I do not know about any purchase of paddy from the farmers at Rs 530 per quintal. I have also no knowledge about any official purchase of paddy anywhere in the state,� she asserted.

Sources in the agriculture department said that in early April, the state government had decided to buy paddy from the farmers at Rs 530 per quintal, realising that the spectre of distress sale was looming large.

The government is still undecided on its paddy purchase plan as, sources in the agriculture department said, it was unable to raise an amount of Rs 6 to 8 crore immediately.

Ghosh, however, said there had been no discussion in the state Cabinet on the issue. �The chief minister and the finance minister may have discussed the matter and taken a decision to purchase paddy from farmers at Rs 530 per quintal,� she observed.

Speaking in Ghosh�s defence, senior officials of the agriculture department said the minister is not supposed to know of plans to purchase paddy unless it is discussed in the Cabinet. �She is the agricultural marketing minister and she deals in the growing and marketing of green vegetables. We kept agriculture minister Kamal Guha informed,� said one of them.

The minister�s remarks have again brought to the fore serious differences between the Forward Bloc and the CPM over sensitive agricultural issues. Earlier, agriculture minister Guha, a veteran Forward Bloc leader, had opposed the government�s proposed agriculture policy at a meeting of the Left Front committee.

Murshidabad Forward Bloc sources said farmers were not getting a fair price for paddy. The party intends to organise a civil disobedience movement, led by Ghosh, in all the five sub-divisions of the district from tomorrow in support of its 27-point charter of demands, including fair price for paddy. The party has begun similar protests in Burdwan and some north Bengal districts.


Panagarh (Burdwan), June 4: 
Mamata Banerjee is down, but not out. Surprisingly, the message came from none other than Jyoti Basu, one of Mamata�s pet hates.

Addressing the CPM�s youth wing, the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Basu said that despite the electoral reverses, the Trinamul Congress continues to be a strong draw for a sizeable section of Bengal�s youth. The former chief minister asked the CPM leadership to find out the reasons driving the youths towards Trinamul and work out political ways to win them over.

In the changed times when newer political and economic issues are coming into view, the old practice of blaming the Centre for ills that dog Bengal will neither benefit the state nor the party, Basu said.

�Go to the youths who have joined Trinamul and convince them that the party has no political programme and no future. It is a party of violence. Convince them about our ideology and programmes and bring them over to our camp,�� Basu added.

Basu urged the DYFI leaders to expand their contact with the common people and function as a bridge between them and the government. He asked them to take the responsibility of highlighting the achievements of the Left Front government.

Reminding the youth leaders that many of the young generations still rallied behind Mamata, Basu asked: �I don�t know why these people are with Trinamul, what are they getting and why people are voting for them? It is you who have to find it out and make all efforts to bring them in our fold.��

He also made it clear that continuing to blame the Centre would not serve any purpose.

�We should also find out our lapses and rectify them. The party should redress the grievances of the people without any delay,� he said.

Basu added that despite his age and ill health, he was touring the districts to highlight the high points of Left Front rule and what the party was doing to develop Bengal.

�If I can move all over the state at this old age, why can�t the young blood? Don�t sit idle, go to the people, visit them door-to-door and tell them what is right. Record their complaints, take their suggestions and inform us,� he said.

Raising the slogan for a �better Left Front�, Basu said the partners in the coalition should not think they are less important. �The nine-party Front is ruling the state for over 25 years. Of the nine parties, one may be big and another may be small. But we all have to work together.�


Calcutta, June 4: 
Barely had the Madhyamik board put behind the furore over publishing a wrong date on pass certificates, it finds itself dragged into another controversy. This time, the row is over the early publication of the current secondary examination results.

Thousands of successful examinees are complaining that they are unable to enrol in the plus two course as most of the higher secondary schools are closed for summer vacation.

Students pointed out that the problem was accentuated this year as the Madhyamik results were published at least 12 days earlier than in previous years and because most of the schools have declared early summer vacations due to the heat wave and prolonged power cuts that hit the city as well as the districts a fortnight ago.

Unlike in previous years, most of the higher secondary schools have closed keeping the admission process incomplete. While some schools have distributed application forms, others have decided to begin the process only when they reopen after the vacation.

The students are outraged that the schools preferred to close for vacations at a time when they are anxious about securing admission in the best institutions. They alleged that it was the first time that the school authorities had acted in such an irresponsible manner and heaped some of the blame of the board.

Protesting against the board�s decision, teachers and heads of various schools have lodged a complaint with the education department, demanding appropriate action against head of the secondary board.

�The government must punish the board chief for jeopardising the career of students. We have demanded the board president�s removal,� said Ratan Laskar, general secretary of the Secondary Employees and Teachers� Association.

This year�s admission problem has arisen as the board, disobeying government instructions, published the results nearly two weeks earlier. Normally, Madhyamik results are published towards the end of the first week in June.

�Since the results are declared in June, we make arrangements accordingly so that we have adequate staff to manage the admission process. But, this year, we could not make such preparations as we did not get any indication from the board that the results were to be declared earlier. What added to the problem was this year�s scorching heat which prompted us to the close down our institution for summer vacation earlier,� said the head of a school in Salt Lake.

An official of the education department pleaded helplessness, saying they had advised the board much in advance that the Madhyamik results should not be announced in haste.

West Bengal Board of Secondary Education president Haraprasad Samaddar admitted that he had received the instruction. �Yes, I did receive such an instruction and acting according to the suggestion, I delayed publication of results by a week.�

He, however, dismissed allegations that students are facing admission problems. �I expect the heads, teachers and all other staff of the schools to keep the offices running during the vacation considering the interest of the students,� Samaddar said.

Teachers� association officials said that finding the schools closed, anxious students and parents are invading the houses of the teachers and heads of various schools almost every day with the plea to reopen the school and begin the admission process.

�Last week, I was forced by some guardians to go to my school, open the doors, clean my office and conduct all admission jobs myself alone as all my non-teaching employees refused to work during the vacation,� said the headmistress of a girls� school in Baguiati.


Almaty, June 4: 
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today adopted a belligerent approach on Kashmir and terrorism even as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, without crossing �the line of self-control� as he called it, refused to get provoked. He, instead, offered a dialogue on all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, if Musharraf ended cross-border terrorism.

Musharraf, who spoke first at the Conference and Interaction on Confidence Building Measures in Central Asia, and Vajpayee duelled over several issues ranging from who should get the credit for past peace initiatives to sources of terrorist violence.

But mercifully both of them also gave adequate signals that neither side was raring to go to war. Pakistan said it would not allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities both �within or outside its borders�. And India said should that happen, a dialogue process would be offered.

Musharraf tried to suggest that he had taken the initiative for a dialogue in Agra because he had gone there �to set in motion a dialogue process�.

It was left to Vajpayee to set the record straight by pointing out that it was India which had always taken the initiative for a dialogue � whether it meant going to Lahore or inviting the Pakistan President to Agra.

The Pakistan President claimed that South Asia was �continuing to pay a heavy price for the refusal of India to resolve the Kashmir dispute�. Vajpayee responded by putting the onus on Pakistan for ensuring that India was not forced to cross �the line of self-restraint we have drawn around ourselves�.

He said Musharraf�s �past record� of promising to end cross-border terrorism �makes us very cautious about accepting such promises unquestioningly�.

Though the prepared speech of Musharraf did not refer even obliquely to cross-border terrorism and infiltration, while addressing the summit, he thankfully thought it necessary to say that �Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for terrorism within or outside its borders�.

The divergence in Vajpayee�s and Musharraf�s approach to terrorism, however, was clear. Vajpayee�s view was that terrorism �sustained by religious extremism� was the enemy of the logic of dialogue for conflict resolution and of peace. He told the conference delegates that the �epicentre� of religious extremism was in India�s neighbourhood.

�It has emerged as the biggest enemy of peace, security, democracy and multi-religious societies in Asia and around the world,� Vajpayee said. Terrorism knew no boundaries and while America came to know of its lethal power and sinister objectives only on September 11, India had been subjected to it for two decades, he added.

Vajpayee argued that global security depended on fighting terrorism unitedly, decisively and speedily.

There could be no place in the struggle against terrorism, he felt, �for any nation to rationalise or justify terrorism and of the causes propounded by its perpetrators�.

Musharraf�s arguments on the origins of terrorism seemed to rationalise it. In doing so, he sought to draw attention away from Pakistan�s recent role as the largest nursery of Islamic extremism and the terrorism it has spawned. He, in fact, tried to turn the argument against terrorism on its head.

�Denial of freedom and the resulting desperation and humiliation are the breeding grounds for extremism,� Musharraf claimed.

Thus, Musharraf argued that violence in the world was not mainly because of terrorists. Its main source, according to him, was the disregard for the Charter of the UN and �the rapacious policies of certain states that forcibly occupy territories and deny freedom to peoples for decades on end.�

Clearly this was not an explanation for the events of September 11 as the Pakistan President would not dare call US policies �rapacious� or accuse America of �forcibly occupying territories�. His intention was to narrow the focus on India and Kashmir.


Almaty, June 4: 
The unconditional and unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations emerged as the primary focus of the first-ever summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Central Asia here today. The 16-members of the body, including Pakistan, declared that no consideration could be invoked to justify terrorism.

This was done by adopting two declarations of intent � the �Almaty Act� and the �Declaration on Eliminating Terrorism and Promoting Dialogue among Civilisations�. The Almaty Act, besides attempting to foster security co-operation, confidence-building measures and giving a formal structure to the grouping, also resolved to �unconditionally and unequivocally condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as well as any support to or acquiescence in it and the failure to directly condemn it�.

Through the Declaration on Terrorism, the summit condemned all forms of terrorism �committed no matter when, where and by whom�. At the same time, the declaration said that terrorism could not be attributed to religion, nationality or civilisation.

Thus, it said: �We believe that it is essential not to allow terrorists to lure us into a conflict of religions, cultures or civilisations.�

Since in India�s immediate context, terrorism is equated with Pakistan, Delhi can justifiably feel satisfied at the success of the summit. India played a crucial role in steering the summit to adopt the declaration on terrorism. Earlier, only the Almaty Act was to have been adopted at the summit. However, India had suggested to Kazakhstan, a fiercely secular, multi-ethnic and multi-religious state, that it might consider adopting a declaration against terrorism.

The suggestion was accepted by President Nursulatan Nazarbayev, whose idea it was to form the grouping and who has nurtured it over the last 10 years. When an invitation arrived in Delhi for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to attend the summit, India was pleasantly surprised to see that the Kazakhs had sent a draft of the proposed declaration along. Today, that declaration was adopted after much negotiation.

Without naming Pakistan, Vajapyee made it clear that �nuclear weapon states should not indulge in nuclear blackmail�.

Attempts were made before the summit by Pakistan to steer the final declaration towards making a distinction between terrorists and �freedom fighters�. Islamabad also wanted the right to self-determination as another qualifier in branding certain activities terrorist. It was not successful.

All that it managed to get was a mention of self-determination in the declaration of terrorism in the context of the member states affirming their commitment to the principles of the UN charter.

A senior Indian official said: �Affirming faith in the UN charter is like affirming faith in motherhood and apple-pie. It is fine with us (as long as terrorism is not justified by qualifying it).�

In this context, it was also significant that the Almaty Act enjoined upon the members of the grouping not to �support on the territory of another member state any separatist movements and entities� and not to establish any kind of relation with them.

The Act also resolved that the territory of member states must also not be allowed to be used by these organisations and nor should any economic, financial and other assistance be given to them. This, too, goes in favour of India�s diplomatic line against terrorism and cross-border terrorism.

The Almaty Act rejected �the use of religion as a pretext� by terrorists and separatists to achieve their objectives. But it drew a clear link between drug trafficking, illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons and terrorism as they are used to finance it.


Almaty, June 4: 
Comparing the military standoff between India and Pakistan to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Russian President Vladimir Putin has appealed to the wisdom of the leaders of the two countries to use political means to resolve their differences.

In 1962, the then Soviet Union and the US nearly came to war when Soviet missile installations were secretly being put up in Cuba. However, they were discovered by US reconnaissance pictures.

Putin�s appeal came in the wake of Chinese President Jiang Zemin obliquely hoping �that parties to certain regional conflicts in Asia� would settle their disputes peacefully and without any delay.

Putin�s appeal was all the more powerful not only because it was direct but also because he chose to intervene at the summit when the conference�s proceedings were concluding.

The Russian leader got up to make these comments at the end of the summit when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev asked if anyone had any thing else to say.

Putin, though he had already made his formal address to the conference, got up to say that the situation developing in South Asia was being followed by the entire world with great concern. It had seized the attention of the US, Nato and the European Union, he said.

For the first time after the 1962 �Caribbean Crisis�, as Putin referred to the Cuban Missile Crisis, a dangerous situation had arisen in South Asia which could have an impact on the whole world. The Russian President welcomed the iteration by India of its �no first use� policy as also Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf�s statement that there was no place for terrorism (in his country) as positive.

Putin went on make a plea to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Musharraf, saying: �I appeal to the wisdom of the two leaders to apply political means to resolve their differences.�


New Delhi, June 4: 
The army is looking for �permanent markers� as evidence that Islamabad is rolling back support to cross-border infiltrators after messages intercepted since last week indicated that Pakistan had advised tanzeems (groups) of militants against crossing over to Jammu and Kashmir.

This was revealed by highly placed defence sources who also said that if the evidence was convincing enough, India would consider pulling back forces from July. But these withdrawals would take place only from the frontline in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab. In Jammu and Kashmir, the army would continue to remain deployed in full strength at least till the Assembly elections, they said.

While a major incident of terrorist violence would again mount pressure on the government to exercise the military option, �we will not be forced into a knee-jerk reaction�, sources said.

The message to militant tanzeems was reportedly conveyed by Pakistan at a meeting in PoK early last week.

The sources said this is the second time since January that Pakistan had given the impression that it was turning off the tap on infiltration. The first indication came shortly after Musharraf�s speech on January 12.

�But the development in January was too shortlived. This time we need evidence that the support to infiltrators has been stopped. The difference will be felt in three to four weeks. While it is still early, there is still no indicative trend,� the sources observed.

They further pointed out: �We are aware of the distinction that Pakistan tries to draw between terrorists and freedom fighters. It is very likely that infiltration will still continue, but Pakistan will claim it had nothing to do with it.�

Defence sources say though the camps in PoK have been dismantled, an estimated 2,000-3,000 militants are waiting to cross over into India. �These militants are lying in wait in Pakistan�s jihad factory,� they said.

Pakistan has also reportedly directed militants to close down radio stations in PoK.

The sources maintained that though there is no hard evidence to suggest that al Qaida members are operating out of PoK and sneaking into Jammu and Kashmir, �there are logical pointers that they are indeed in the region and some presence has been reported in Skardu and Gilgit�.

According to the sources, Pakistan has deployed four divisions of its army in PoK, roughly 70,000 troops. (India�s army presence in Jammu and Kashmir is at least three times that number).

If the Pakistani army plugged routes on the LoC � reports indicate that units of its 10 Corps have been asked to do just that � it would be immediately detected.


Patna, June 4: 
March 2002: Railway police recover the body of a youth hidden in a perfumed gunny bag under the seat of a compartment of the 506 Down EMU train at Banka Ghat station in Patna.

September 2001: A commuter on the last passenger train from Jhajha to Patna raises an alarm at Patna station. While collecting his luggage, he has noticed a foul-smelling tin box with fading blood stains. When RPF men open the box, they recoil in horror. Inside lies the rotting body of a man in army uniform.

September 2000: A woman�s body is found wrapped in a sack and packed in a wooden box from under a seat of Mumbai Mail at Gaya after passengers complain of a stench.

These cases are the tip of the iceberg of a new phenomenon in Bihar � �canned bodies found in train compartments�. More and more trains chug into stations carrying corpses as investigations, more often than not, hit a dead end. Police have been forced to close investigations in more than 30 such cases after filing the Final True Report (FTR).

�The bodies are difficult to identify specially when it, for example, reaches a station over 200 to 500 km away from the actual place of occurrence of the crime,� said a senior police officer at Muzaffarpur. He said about 10 bodies found in the station there seemed to have came from the �far-off non-descript stations in the districts bordering Nepal where abductions are the highest and small stations remain unguarded�.

Most of these cases are reported from Patna, Gaya, Muzaffarpur, Ara and Hajipur. In Patna, the 20-year-old man�s body recovered from the EMU could not be identified despite a publicity blitz. Police suspect he was killed in some far-flung village and then his body was stowed away on the train.

Over 15 similar cases have left the Railway police in Patna baffled. This month, they were forced to file FTRs on them. An organisation in the capital dealing with cases of missing persons maintained that cases remain unresolved due to a lack of coordination between the Railways and the police, providing a fillip to the gangsters� macabre method of dumping the corpses of their victims in bogies.

In December, a newspaper vendor�s brother in Patna did not return home after delivering papers. He received several ransom calls immediately after the disappearance. Now even six months after the incident, there is no trace of the missing vendor. The family in despair is now running from one station to another. �Out of every 100 missing case, only 30 are found,� stated a policeman.

But perseverance had paid off for Amitava Das, superintendent of police, railways, Patna. When preliminary investigations into the case of the body found in fatigues hit a dead end, Das called up the Danapur Army Cantonment to find out if any jawan had gone missing. Description of the body and the uniform to the army officers did not help. They said the body could not be of any jawan and the uniform was fake.

But there were a few leads � some telephone numbers the sleuths had found on the body were of Jammui. When police called up, villagers reached Patna to identify the body. They said he was Shantanu Yadav. Police found out that political rivals had taken his life during last year�s panchayat polls and packed off his body on a train at Jammui station. The killers have been arrested.

The cases get more complicated as gangsters often use long-distance trains as a result of which a severely disfigured corpse could be reaching Mumbai or Madurai. �The trick works for the gangsters perfectly. For the railway police, prevention and detection of dacoities enjoy the highest priority. Unclaimed bodies on a train do not. But I want to make some breakthroughs in the blind cases so that these can act as a deterrent to this modus operandi,� Das said.

So tempting is this modus operandi that even an inspector of railway police had tried it. In September 2000, Beedal Gadi, an inspector of railway police in Koderma � now in Jharkhand � killed his wife, Shveta Mishra, wrapped the body in a gunny bag, packed it in a wooden box and hid it under a seat of Mumbai Mail. The train reached its destination without the body being detected. But Gadi�s luck ran out hundreds of kilometres later in Gaya. On the return journey, some passengers complained to the police about a foul stench emanating from a passenger compartment.

A thorough investigation led to the filing of a chargesheet. But Gadi, who had himself filed many FTRs of such cases, had fled. He has been suspended. It was revealed that the inspector had divorced this wife. When she went to Koderma from Patna to collect her alimony, she was killed by her former husband. The message from Gadi�s story seems to have had little impact. Trains continue to bring in bodies from Bihar�s killing fields.


Hyderabad, June 4: 
The Andhra Pradesh government today nominated two Cabinet ministers to hold preliminary talks with the People�s War Group (PWG) to initiate dialogue aimed at putting an end to rural violence in Telengana.

The two ministers, K. Vijayarama Rao and T. Seetharam, will meet with PWG representatives P. Varavara Rao and Gaddar in Hyderabad tomorrow for the preliminaries. The first meeting will be an in-camera session.

Vijayarama Rao is a former CBI director who joined the Telugu Desam Party after retirement. He defeated the Congress strongman in Khairatabad to enter the Assembly before becoming a state Cabinet minister.

Seetharam is from Srikakulam district, the birthplace of the Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh in the early 1960s. A well-known sportsman, he is a Telugu Desam veteran.

�We will announce the agenda at the meeting which will be endorsed by the Naxalite leaders before the real dialogue begins,� said state home minister T. Devender Gowd, in an informal chat with reporters today.

However, a government note released on the occasion of the all-party meeting yesterday provided details of PWG operations between February and June, the period when they began the peace initiative. PWG activists had been held responsible for 13 cases of murder, nine attacks on villages, eight blasts, two landmine blasts during this period.

The police raided 19 arms dumps belonging to the PWG and recovered scores of guns and massive stocks of ammunition during this period. Nearly 75 PWG activists surrendered to the police between February and June.

The outcome of the talks between the extremists and the government remains a question of speculation. The PWG has clarified it would not give up arms even after the dialogue. Both their armed camps and arms training programmes for youths will continue.

�Both the government and people respect us for our strength in opposing the police,� said senior PWG leader Ramakrishna in an interview recently.

PWG representative Varavara Rao, however, said that the disarming of the PWG was not the main agenda of the peace dialogue. The real issue was how to put an end to the �tit-for-tat� battle between the police and the Naxalites.

�It (the talks) will also include the Naxalites stopping the abuse of law and the Constitution and indiscriminate killing of elected representatives,� Varavara Rao said.


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