Friday, May 26, 2006

The futile fight...

There's been a whole lot of debate on reservations, but everything seems absolutely pointless. I wonder if we are still living in a democracy. I mean, politicians don't really do anything worthwhile and once in a while come down to wreak havoc on innumerable souls. I couldn't skip the letter sent by the member of Knowledge Commission who resigned recently over the Government's move.

Here are some really insightful excerpts that speak a thousand words:
But the government's recent decision to extend quotas for OBCs in central institutions, the palliative measures the government is contemplating to defuse the resulting agitation, and the process employed to arrive at these measures are steps in the wrong direction. They violate four cardinal principles that institutions in a knowledge based society will have to follow: they are not based on assessment of effectiveness, they are incompatible with the freedom and diversity of institutions, they more thoroughly politicise the education process, and they inject an insidious poison that will harm the nation's long-term interest.
How very true.
For one thing, the historical claims of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the nature of the deprivations they face are qualitatively of a different order than those faced by Other Backward Castes, at least in North India. It is plainly disingenuous to lump them together in the same narrative of social injustice and assume that the same instruments should apply to both.
If only those politicians realize this!
As an academic I find it to be an appalling spectacle when a group of ministers is empowered to come up with admissions policies, seat formulas for institutions across the country. While institutions have responsibilities and are accountable to society, how will they ever achieve excellence and autonomy if basic decisions like who they should teach, what they should teach, how much they should charge are uniformly mandated by government diktat?
Nail on the head!
It is often said that caste is a reality in India. I could not agree more. But your government is in the process of making caste the only reality in India.

What more?

1) Once implemented, reservations would be a bane for eternity.
2) Looking deeper and deeper, I think its more of systematically alienating the upper caste communities than of empowering lower caste people.

I guess its one of those times when you really believe in something and you just have to witness something else unravel. Patriotism, in India, is not something people feel everyday, except may be during cricket matches. Decisions like these certainly don't help the cause.


At Friday, May 26, 2006 9:03:00 PM, Blogger Jam said...

Hey Govar,

There is more than just one angle to this whole thing. Here are some -

1> 2000 yrs of oppression of these sections of society by the so called upper castes.
2> The fact that these people constitute huge vote banks in the bigger states of the country.
3> The fact that the past 2-3 govts in the country have been feeble coalitions comprised of a helluva lot of regional parties, without strong oppositions.

Hmmm, a deeper look into the various other angles of this issue is surely going to open more than just a can of worms.


At Saturday, May 27, 2006 3:05:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Oh yeah, its a can of worms. I just hope that the intensity of the issue rises and the politicians are forced to come out with a proper report of the implementation plans/positive points etc.

At Monday, May 29, 2006 2:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Jam says there are a whole lot of issues we gotta look at before judging the situation.
Come to think of it, I think the opposition to reservation comes from a basic pschological reaction - " How can this guy/girl get the seat I should've got without putting in the same or greater effort that I have???". That is the reaction I first had when faced with the question some time during 12th std. Most of our references from merititocracy to competitiveness of India are basically justifications of our basic reaction.
Some of us have gotten beyond the basic reactions while for others the reaction overwhelms a secondary reaction of acknowledging the need for social engineering in India.
A CPI(M) guy I was chatting with said that the government is pushing ahead with reservations not just as an experiment with social engineering but for certain other imperatives as well.
- social justice(the most obvious)
- a white paper on maoism/naxalism in central india which basically says that 37% of india(! this is no urban legend) called the red corridor, is out of Indian Govt. control! this is not commie propaganda against maoists. read a BJP(!) article on this.
the maoists are exclusively dalits and OBCs with no outlook for the future.
- The success of the four southern states in social engineering which have made them the engines of Indian growth due to access of opportunities by a broader base of the population.
- syndicated research by Mckinsey and IBM on ageing of the western population which threw up an interesting corrolary. In india Tamilnadu, Kerala, some parts of Ap and Karnataka have social equity parameters equal to that of 1970's Western Europe!!!
- and other inputs including from chinese social experiences that're similar
- and the last but not the least! the people who are protesting belong to about 8% of the population and most of this 8% doesn't vote anyways!! so definitely votebank politics play a role.

At Monday, May 29, 2006 2:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karan Thapar's interview with Hon'ble minister for education on CNBC (you will soon know how Hon'ble)

Some things he says are outright ridiculous, unbelievable and actually tests the patience and intelligence....
Please to read and forward to colleagues/batchmates....

Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to the Devil's Advocate. As the debate over the
reservations for the OBCs divides the country, we ask - What are the
government's real intentions? That is the critical questions that I shall put
today in an exclusive interview to the Minister for Human Resource Development
Arjun Singh.

Most of the people would accept that steps are necessary to help the OBCs gain
greater access to higher education. The real question is - Why do you believe
that reservations is the best way of doing this?

Arjun Singh: I wouldn't like to say much more on this because these are
decisions that are taken not by individuals alone. And in this case, the entire
Parliament of this country - almost with rare anonymity - has decided to take
this decision.

Karan Thapar: Except that Parliament is not infallible. In the Emergency, when
it amended the Constitution, it was clearly wrong, it had to reverse its own
amendments. So, the question arises - Why does Parliament believe that the
reservation is the right way of helping the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: Nobody is infallible. But Parliament is Supreme and atleast I, as
a Member of Parliament, cannot but accept the supremacy of Parliament.

Karan Thapar: No doubt Parliament is supreme, but the constitutional amendment
that gives you your authorities actually unenabling amendment, it is not a
compulsory requirement. Secondly, the language of the amendment does not talk
about reservations, the language talks about any provision by law for
advancement of socially and educationally backward classes. So, you could have
chosen anything other than reservations, why reservations?

Arjun Singh: Because as I said, that was the 'will and desire of the Parliament'.

Karan Thapar: Do you personally also, as Minister of Human Resource Development
, believe that reservations is the right and proper way to help the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: Certainly, that is one of the most important ways to do it.

Karan Thapar: The right way?

Arjun Singh: Also the right way.

Karan Thapar: In which case, lets ask a few basic questions; we are talking
about the reservations for the OBCs in particular. Do you know what percentage
of the Indian population is OBC? Mandal puts it at 52 per cent, the National
Sample Survey Organisation at 32 per cent, the National Family and Health
Survey at 29.8 per cent, which is the correct figure?

Arjun Singh: I think that should be decided by people who are more
knowledgeable. But the point is that the OBCs form a fairly sizeable percentage
of our population.

Karan Thapar: No doubt, but the reason why it is important to know 'what
percentage' they form is that if you are going to have reservations for them,
then you must know what percentage of the population they are, otherwise you
don't know whether they are already adequately catered in higher educational
institutions or not.

Arjun Singh: That is obvious - they are not.

Karan Thapar: Why is it obvious?

Arjun Singh: Obvious because it is something which we all see.

Karan Thapar: Except for the fact that the NSSO, which is a government
appointed body, has actually in its research in 1999 - which is the most latest
research shown - that 23.5 per cent of all university seats are already with
the OBCs. And that is just 8.5 per cent less than what the NSSO believes is the
OBC share of the population. So, for a difference of 8 per cent, would
reservations be the right way of making up the difference?

Arjun Singh: I wouldn't like to go behind all this because, as I said,
Parliament has taken a view and it has taken a decision, I am a servant of
Parliament and I will only implement.

Karan Thapar: Absolutely, Parliament has taken a view, I grant it. But what
people question is the simple fact - Is there a need for reservations? If you
don't know what percentage of the country is OBC, and if furthermore, the NSSO
is correct in pointing out that already 23.5 per cent of the college seats are
with the OBC, then you don't have a case in terms of need.

Arjun Singh: College seats, I don't know.

Karan Thapar: According to the NSSO - which is a government appointed body -
23.5 per cent of the college seats are already with the OBCs.

Arjun Singh: What do you mean by college seats?

Karan Thapar: University seats, seats of higher education.

Arjun Singh: Well, I don't know I have not come across that far.

Karan Thapar: So, when critics say to you that you don't have a case for
reservation in terms of need, what do you say to them?

Arjun Singh: I have said what I had to say and the point is that that is not an
issue for us to now debate.

Karan Thapar: You mean the chapter is now closed?

Arjun Singh: The decision has been taken.

Karan Thapar: Regardless of whether there is a need or not, the decision is
taken and it is a closed chapter.

Arjun Singh: So far as I can see, it is a closed chapter and that is why I have
to implement what all Parliament has said.

Karan Thapar: Minister, it is not just in terms of 'need' that your critics
question the decision to have reservation for OBCs in higher education. More
importantly, they question whether reservations themselves are efficacious and
can work.

For example, a study done by the IITs themselves shows that 50 per cent of the
IIT seats for the SCs and STs remain vacant and for the remaining 50 per cent,
25 per cent are the candidates, who even after six years fail to get their
degrees. So, clearly, in their case, reservations are not working.

Arjun Singh: I would only say that on this issue, it would not be correct to go
by all these figures that have been paraded.

Karan Thapar: You mean the IIT figures themselves could be dubious?

Arjun Singh: Not dubious, but I think that is not the last word.

Karan Thapar: All right, maybe the IIT may not be the last word, let me then
quote to you the report of the Parliamentary Committee on the welfare for the
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes - that is a Parliamentary body.

It says that looking at the Delhi University, between 1995 and 2000, just half
the seats for under-graduates at the Scheduled Castes level and just one-third
of the seats for under-graduates at the Scheduled Tribes level were filled. All
the others went empty, unfilled. So, again, even in Delhi University,
reservations are not working.

Arjun Singh: If they are not working, it does not mean that for that reason we
don't need them. There must be some other reason why they are not working and
that can be certainly probed and examined. But to say that for this reason, 'no
reservations need to be done' is not correct.

Karan Thapar: Fifty years after the reservations were made, statistics show,
according to The Hindustan Times, that overall in India, only 16 per cent of
the places in higher education are occupied by SCs and STs. The quota is 22.5
per cent, which means that only two-thirds of the quota is occupied. One third
is going waste, it is being denied to other people.

Arjun Singh: As I said, the kind of figures that have been brought out, in my
perception, do not reflect the realities. Realities are something much more and
of course, there is an element of prejudice also.

Karan Thapar: But these are figures that come from a Parliamentary Committee.
It can't be prejudiced; they are your own colleagues.

Arjun Singh: Parliamentary Committee has given the figures, but as to why this
has not happened, that is a different matter.

Karan Thapar: I put it to you that you don't have a case for reservations in
terms of need, you don't have a case for reservations in terms of their
efficacy, why then, are you insisting on extending them to the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: I don't want to use that word, but I think that your argument is
basically fallicious.

Karan Thapar: But it is based on all the facts available in the public domain.

Arjun Singh: Those are facts that need to be gone into with more care. What
lies behind those facts, why this has not happened, that is also a fact.

Karan Thapar: Let's approach the issue of reservations differently in that
case. Reservations mean that a lesser-qualified candidate gets preference over
a more qualified candidate, solely because in this case, he or she happens to
be an OBC. In other words, the upper castes are being penalised for being upper

Arjun Singh: Nobody is being penalised and that is a factor that we are trying
to address. I think that the prime Minister will be talking to all the
political parties and will be putting forward a formula, which will see that
nobody is being penalised.

Karan Thapar: I want very much to talk about that formula, but before we come
to talk about how you are going to address concerns, let me point one other
corollary - Reservations also gives preference and favour to caste over merit.
Is that acceptable in a modern society?

Arjun Singh: I don't think the perceptions of modern society fit India entirely.

Karan Thapar: You mean India is not a modern society and therefore can't claim
to be treated as one?

Arjun Singh: It is emerging as a modern society, but the parameters of a modern
society do not apply to large sections of the people in this country.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you Jawaharlal Nehru, a man whom you personally
admire enormously. On the 27th of June 1961 wrote to the Chief Ministers of the
day as follows: I dislike any kind of reservations. If we go in for any kind of
reservations on communal and caste basis, we will swamp the bright and able
people and remain second rate or third rate. The moment we encourage the second
rate, we are lost. And then he adds pointedly: This way lies not only folly,
but also disaster. What do you say to Jawaharlal Nehru today?

Arjun Singh: Jawaharlal Nehru was a great man in his own right and not only me,
but everyone in India accept his view.

Karan Thapar: But you are just about to ignore his advice.

Arjun Singh: No. Are you aware that it was Jawaharlal Nehru who introduced the
first ammendment regarding OBCs?

Karan Thapar: Yes, and I am talking about Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961, when
clearly he had changed his position, he said - I dislike any kind of

Arjun Singh: I don't think one could take Panditji's position at any point of
time and then overlook what he had himself initiated.

Karan Thapar: Am I then to understand that regardless of the case that is made
against reservations in terms of need, regardless of the case that has been
made against reservations in terms of efficacy, regardless of the case that has
been made against reservations in terms of Jawaharlal Nehru, you remain
committed to extending reservations to the OBCs.

Arjun Singh: I said because that is the will of Parliament. And I think that
common decisions that are taken by Parliament have to be honoured.

Karan Thapar: Let me ask you a few basic questions - If reservations are going
to happen for the OBCs in higher education, what percentage of reservations are
we talking about?

Arjun Singh: No, that I can't say because that has yet to be decided.

Karan Thapar: Could it be less than 27 per cent?

Arjun Singh: I can't say anything on that, I have told you in the very
beginning that at this point of time it is not possible for me to.

Karan Thapar: Quite right. If you can't say, then that also means that the
figure has not been decided.

Arjun Singh: The figure will be decided, it has not been decided yet.

Karan Thapar: The figure has not been decided. So, therefore the figure could
be 27, but it could be less than 27 too?

Arjun Singh: I don't want to speculate on that because as I said, that is
decision, which will be taken by Parliament.

Karan Thapar: Whatever the figure, one thing is certain that when the
reservations for OBCs happen, the total quantum of reservations will go up in
percentage terms. Will you compensate by increasing the total number of seats
in colleges, universities, IITs and IIMs, so that the other students don't feel

Arjun Singh: That is one of the suggestions that has been made and is being
seriously considered.

Karan Thapar: Does it find favour with you as a Minister for Human Resource Development?

Arjun Singh: Whatever suggestion comes, we are committed to examine it.

Karan Thapar: You may be committed to examine it, but do you as minister
believe that that is the right way forward?

Arjun Singh: That could be one of the ways, but not the only way.

Karan Thapar: What are the other ways?

Arjun Singh: I don't know. That is for the Prime Minister and the other
ministers to decide.

Karan Thapar: One way forward would be to increase the total number of seats.

Arjun Singh: Yes, definitely.

Karan Thapar: But the problem is that as the Times of India points out, we are
talking of an increase of perhaps as much as 53 per cent. Given the constraints
you have in terms of faculty and infrastructure, won't that order of increase
dilute the quality of education?

Arjun Singh: I would only make one humble request, don't go by The Times of
India and The Hindustan Times about faculty and infrastructure, because they
are trying to focus on an argument which they have made.

Karan Thapar: All right, I will not go by The Times of India, let me instead go
by Sukhdev Thorat, the Chairman of the UGC. He points out that today, at higher
education levels - that is all universities, IITs and IIMs - there is already a
1.2 lakh vacancy number. 40 per cent of these are in teaching staff, which the
IIT faculty themselves point out that they have shortages of up to 30 per cent.
Given those two constraint, can you increase the number of seats?

Arjun Singh: That can be addressed and that shortage can be taken care of.

Karan Thapar: But it can't be taken care of in one swoop, it will take several
years to do it.

Arjun Singh: I don't know whether it can be taken care of straightway or in
stages, that is a subject to be decided.

Karan Thapar: Let me ask you bluntly, if you were to agree to compensate for
reservations for OBCs by increasing the number of seats, would that increase
happen at one go, or would it be staggered over a period of two-three or four
year old process.

Arjun Singh: As I told you, it is an issue that I cannot comment upon at this
moment because that is under examination.

Karan Thapar: So, it may happen in one go and it may happen in a series of several years.

Arjun Singh: I can't speculate on that because that is not something on which I
am free to speak on today.

Karan Thapar: Will the reservation for OBCs, whatever figure your Committee
decides on, will it happen in one go, or will it slowly be introduced in

Arjun Singh: That also I cannot say because as I told you, all these issues are
under consideration.

Karan Thapar: Which means that everything that is of germane interest to the
people concerned is at the moment 'under consideration' and the government is
not able to give any satisfaction to the students who are deeply

Arjun Singh: That is not the point. The government knows what to do and it will
do what is needed.

Karan Thapar: But if the government knows what to do, why won't you tell me
what the government wants to do?

Arjun Singh: Because unless the decision is taken, I cannot tell you.

Karan Thapar: But you can share with me as the Minister what you are thinking.

Arjun Singh: No.

Karan Thapar: So, in other words, we are manitaining a veil of secrecy and the
very people who are concerned...

Arjun Singh: I am not maintaining a veil of secrecy. I am only telling you what
propriety allows me to tell you.

Karan Thapar: Propriety does not allow you to share with the people who are
protesting on the streets what you are thinking?

Arjun Singh: I don't think that that can happen all the time.

Karan Thapar: But there are people who feel that their lives and their futures
are at stake and they are undertaking fasts until death.

Arjun Singh: It is being hyped up, I don't want to go into that.

Karan Thapar: Do you have no sympathy for them?

Arjun Singh: I have every sympathy.

Karan Thapar: But you say it is being hyped up.

Arjun Singh: Yes, it is hyped up.

Karan Thapar: So, then, what sympathy are you showing?

Arjun Singh: I am showing sympathy to them and not to those who are hyping it up.

Karan Thapar: The CPM says that if the reservations for the OBCs are to happen,
then what is called the creamy layer should be excluded. How do you react to

Arjun Singh: The creamy layer issue has already been taken care of by the Supreme Court.

Karan Thapar: That was vis -a-vis jobs in employment, what about at the
university level, should they be excluded there as well because you are
suggesting that the answer is yes?

Arjun Singh: That could be possible.

Karan Thapar: It could be possible that the creamy layer is excluded from
reservations for OBCs in higher education?

Arjun Singh: It could be, but I don't know whether it would happen actually.

Karan Thapar: Many people say that if reservations for OBCs in higher education
happen, then the children of beneficiaries should not be entitled to claim the
same benefit.

Arjun Singh: Why?

Karan Thapar: So that there is always a shrinking base and the rate doesn't proliferate.

Arjun Singh: I don't think that that is a very logical way of looking at it.

Karan Thapar: Is that not acceptable to you?

Arjun Singh: No, it is not the logical way of looking at it.

Karan Thapar: So, with the possible exception of the creamy layer exclusion,
reservation for OBCs in higher education will be almost identical to the
existing reservations for SC/STs?

Arjun Singh: Except for the percentage.

Karan Thapar: Except for the percentage.

Arjun Singh: Yes.

Karan Thapar: So, in every other way, they will be identical.

Arjun Singh: Yes, in every other way.

Karan Thapar: Mr Arjun Singh, on the 5th of April when you first indicated that
the Government was considering reservation for OBCs in higher education, was
the Prime Minister in agreement that this was the right thing to do?

Arjun Singh: I think, there is a very motivated propaganda is on this issue.
Providing reservation to OBCs was in the public domain right from December
2005, when Parliament passed the enabling resolution.

Karan Thapar: Quite true. But had the Prime Minister specifically agreed on or
before 5th of April to the idea?

Arjun Singh: Well, I am telling you it was already there. A whole Act was made,
the Constitution was amended and the Prime Minister was fully aware of what
this is going to mean. Actually, he had a meeting in which OBC leaders were
called to convince them that this would give them the desired advantage. And
they should, therefore, support this resolution. And at that meeting, he
himself talked to them. Now, how do you say that he was unaware?

Karan Thapar: But were you at all aware that the Prime Minister might be in
agreement with what was about to happen but might not wish it disclosed
publicly at that point of time? Were you aware of that?

Arjun Singh: It was already there in public domain, that's what I am trying to tell you.

Karan Thapar: Then answer this to me. Why are members of the PMO telling
journalists that Prime Minister was not consulted and that you jumped the

Arjun Singh: Well, I don't know which member of the PMO you are talking about
unless you name him.

Karan Thapar: Is there a conspiracy to make you the fall guy?

Arjun Singh: Well, I don't know whether there is one or there is not. But fall
guys are not made in this way. And I am only doing what was manifestly clear to
every one, was cleared by the party and the Prime Minister. There is no
question of any personal agenda.

Karan Thapar: They say that, in fact, you brought up this issue to embarrass
the Prime Minister.

Arjun Singh: Why should I embarrass the Prime Minister? I am with him. I am
part of his team.

Karan Thapar: They say that you have a lingering, forgive the word, jealousy
because Sonia Gandhi chose Manmohan Singh and not you as Prime Minister.

Arjun Singh: Well, that is canard which is below contempt. Only that person can
say this who doesn't know what kind of respect and regard I hold for Sonia
Gandhi. She is the leader. Whatever she decides is acceptable to me.

Karan Thapar: They also say that you brought this issue up because you felt
that the Prime Minister had been eating into your portfolio. Part of it had
gone to Renuka Chaudhury and, in fact, your new deputy minister Purandar
Sridevi had taken over certain parts. This was your way of getting back.

Arjun Singh: No one was taking over any part. This is a decision which the
Prime Minister makes as to who has to have what portfolio. And he asked Mrs
Renuka Devi to take it and he cleared it with me first.

Karan Thapar: So there is no animus on your part?

Arjun Singh: Absolutely not.

Karan Thapar: They say that you did this because you resented the Prime
Minister's popular image in the country, that this was your way of embroiling
him in a dispute that will make him look not like a modern reformer but like an
old-fashioned, family-hold politician instead.

Arjun Singh: Well, the Tammany Hall political stage is over> He is our Prime
Minister and every decision he has taken is in the full consent with his
Cabinet and I don't think there can be any blame on him.

Karan Thapar: One, then, last quick question. Do you think this is an issue,
which is a sensitive issue, where everyone knew there would have been passions
and emotions that would have aroused has been handled as effectively as it
should have been?

Arjun Singh: Well, I have not done anything on it. I have not sort of what you
call jumped the gun. If this is an issue, which is sensitive, everyone has to
treat it that way.

Karan Thapar: But your conscience as HRD Minister is clear?

Arjun Singh: Absolutely clear.

Karan Thapar: There is nothing that you could have done to make it easier for
the young students?

Arjun Singh: Well, I am prepared to do anything that can be done. And it is
being attempted.

Karan Thapar: For seven weeks, they have been protesting in the hot sun. No
minister has gone there to appease them, to alley their concerns, to express
sympathy for them. Have politicians let the young people of India down?

Arjun Singh: Well, I myself called them. They all came in this very room.

Karan Thapar: But you are the only one.

Arjun Singh: You are accusing me only. No one else is being accused.

Karan Thapar: What about the Government of India? Has the Government of India
failed to respond adequately?

Arjun Singh: From the Government of India also, the Defence Minister met them.

Karan Thapar: Only recently.

Arjun Singh: That is something because everyone was busy with the elections.

Karan Thapar: For seven weeks no one met them.

Arjun Singh: No, but we are very concerned. Certainly, all of us resent the
kind of force that was used. I condemned it the very first day it

Karan Thapar: All right, Mr Arjun Singh. We have reached the end of this
interview. Thank you very much for speaking on the subject

At Tuesday, May 30, 2006 12:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ anonmous
thanks anonymous for you unwanted, x-tra long post. we could've done with a link.
Govar, me, jam and all other who read or respond on govar's blog may have dissonance in opinion but never ever do we NOT have the guts to put up our identities, however notional. what're you afraid of? that I'll send some comrades from KGB to kill you?
If you want your opinions to have any respect, take ownership of them.

At Tuesday, May 30, 2006 7:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I just choose to be anonymous. So what is the issue with that?

At Tuesday, May 30, 2006 8:00:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

I think being anonymous in THIS PARTICULAR CASE was ok since he wasn't really putting up a flaming argument or making personal references.

Am all ok with being anonymous - as long as it's not personal. If you want to rebuke/insult a blogger in whatever form, I think adding the name adds a lot of spice into it. ;-)

At Thursday, June 01, 2006 4:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

:D not to be belligerent, but, anonymous is anonymous. leaving a name behind shows a hint of ownership. "choosing" to be anonymous leaves a vacuum. Of course one could always leave a pseudonym or something like that but what's the point of NOT leaving your personal tag on your opinion, flamer or not???


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