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EDITORIALS

Congress parivar
Democracy in coalition times
T
HE first session of the All-India Congress Committee after the formation of the UPA – the first Congress-led coalition at the Centre – is significant in more ways than one, not all of which redound to the credit of the party.

The Uma taint
Resignation is the right choice
A
FTER going hammer and tongs at the government over the tainted ministers issue, the BJP was left with little manoeuvrability when the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Ms Uma Bharti, was declared a proclaimed offender by a Karnataka court in a criminal case dating back to the Idgah Maidan agitation 10 years ago.


EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Future fuel
Renewable, non-conventional energy
P
rime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement that his government would endeavour to make India a leader in the new and renewable energy sector in a short time comes in the wake of rising international oil prices.

ARTICLE

Chakravyuh of backwardness
Is Indian sport doomed?
by Rajan Kashyap
H
ow closely sport mimics a nation’s history! We are dismayed to find that the promised crop of world beaters has seldom materialised; not in the fabric of India’s chequered history, nor equally, in the sports arena.

MIDDLE

Nagas sweet and sore
by Tirath Ram
I
N 1992, I was posted in Mariani, situated on the Border of Nagaland and Assam. One day when I was sitting in my office four or five Naga youths forcibly entered it and demanded a crate of rum failing which I may have to face the consequences.

OPED

Making people-to-people contacts
Indians, Pakistanis learning to live as friends
by Syed Nooruzzaman
T
he candlelight vigil ceremony organised by the Hind-Pak Dosti Manch at the Wagah border on the eve of Independence Day provided the writer an opportunity to interact with politicians, theatre personalities and housewives from Pakistan. All of them agreed that people-to-people contacts must be promoted in a big way for removing the misunderstandings between the two neighbours.

Chatterati
by Devi Cherian
A tryst with the Gandhis

At Jawahar Bhawan last week Sonia Gandhi released books of family patriarch Jawaharlal Nehru. The invitation card read 6.00 p.m. and dot on time in a crisp sari, the hair tied back neatly with a clip, pearl dots on her ears, the ever-immaculate Sonia Gandhi walked into the hall in her trademark brisk walk.

  • Mallika and music 

  • New gen’s new ideas

 REFLECTIONS

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Congress parivar
Democracy in coalition times

THE first session of the All-India Congress Committee after the formation of the UPA – the first Congress-led coalition at the Centre – is significant in more ways than one, not all of which redound to the credit of the party. The AICC’s upfront acceptance of the inevitability of coalitions is a creditable advance, given the past record and resolutions of the party. The Pachmarhi resolve against coalitions has melted away. So has the pathological antipathy to alliance rule that was all too evident during 1996-'98 when it toppled the United Front government and earlier in 1979 and 1990 when the party wrecked the coalitions of Charan Singh and Mr Chandra Shekhar. Obviously, the Congress has realised it must lead the way in a coalition culture, if only to pre-empt being upstaged by the BJP and its allies. The pointed warning that an alternative to the UPA may be “disastrous” is an acknowledgement of reality as much as it is a signal to party cadres and allies.

That the BJP, though worsted electorally, remains a challenge at the political level is underscored by both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party President Sonia Gandhi launching a frontal assault on the Hindutva forces. On the one hand, this makes it plain that the offensive against the RSS and the BJP is not an individual effort by the likes of HRD Minister Arjun Singh but a concern of both the party and the government. On the other hand, it is also a subtle hint to Mr Arjun Singh that any personal ambitions that may have actuated his anti-RSS campaign are unlikely to be realised in the prevailing order, where the PM has Mrs Gandhi’s whole-hearted support.

All of which points to the third most important feature of the AICC: the primacy of the family. Mrs Sonia Gandhi calls the shots even as Mr Rahul Gandhi basked in the limelight though he has not risen, at least yet, to steal the thunder. What this brings to the fore is that despite its new trappings, the Congress remains a dynasty-centric party, unwilling or incapable of organisational reform to foster internal democracy beyond the minimum dictated by expedience.
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The Uma taint
Resignation is the right choice

AFTER going hammer and tongs at the government over the tainted ministers issue, the BJP was left with little manoeuvrability when the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Ms Uma Bharti, was declared a proclaimed offender by a Karnataka court in a criminal case dating back to the Idgah Maidan agitation 10 years ago. Trying to defend her would have compromised the BJP campaign badly. By sending her resignation quickly to the high command despite early denials, she has made a virtue out of necessity and has at the same time deprived the Congress of a stick to beat her party with. Rather, the BJP has regained some of the high moral ground through this “principled” resignation, which was slipping from under its feet. The party can now be depended on to say that although the case against her was “political” in nature, she had respected the court order and now it was the turn of the tainted ministers to display similar integrity and probity.

Since the case involves the hoisting of the National Flag at the Idgah, the whole controversy may even be given a patriotic colour. The fact that she has also been booked under various sections of the IPC relating to rioting, attempt to murder and assault and criminal force to deter public servants from discharge of duty can be conveniently glossed over. The experience so far is that such “sacrifice” is the surest ticket to one’s redemption, at least in the eyes of the public.

Still, there are going to be serious consequences for the party in Madhya Pradesh, which happens to be one of its last bastions. There are hardly any suitable second-rung leaders in the party who can step into her shoes easily. Even if a particular name is thrown up, there is going to be a strong dissension because the party is divided into several factions. All the same, this was no doubt the best and perhaps the only option before Ms Uma Bharti and her party. The targeting of the Chief Minister may provide the ruling party an effective counter-balance to the corruption and Savarkar issues, but the proceedings of Parliament seem destined to be stormy. 

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Future fuel
Renewable, non-conventional energy

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement that his government would endeavour to make India a leader in the new and renewable energy sector in a short time comes in the wake of rising international oil prices. India is the world's sixth largest consumer of energy, and most of the energy is derived from burning hydrocarbon fuels, which are expensive and non-renewable. India has been experimenting with alternative sources of energy for a long time. Jawaharlal Nehru saw a solar heater demonstration in the 1960s, but despite subsidies, the device never really gained popular acceptance.

Over the years, interest in alternative resources has increased. The Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources, created in 1992, focuses on biogas, biomass, solar energy, wind energy, small hydropower, etc. Contrary to claims, there has not been much progress on the ground. The main problem is that the programmes don't go where they are needed the most — in far off places where conventional energy cannot be delivered due to constraints of transmission and distribution. This is often because of lack of awareness, acceptance and will.

Experts have stressed the absence of a proper renewable energy policy and of course adequate implementation. After the Prime Minister's exhortation, it is hoped that soon there will a thrust in exploiting the alternatives available to conventional energy sources. It is, indeed, difficult to understand why such products as ethanol, with proven efficacy worldwide, have not yet been introduced commercially in India. In the first phase, 5 per cent ethanol is supposed to be blended with petroleum products. This would, in itself, not only give a boost to the sugarcane industry, which provides the raw product, but it would also help to keep domestic oil prices in check. Similarly, alternatives to petrol and diesel, like CNG and LPG, have made a dramatic difference in the environment of Delhi and also helped motorists stretch the rupee a bit further. This Delhi model is being studied by many countries. It needs to be emulated elsewhere in India too.
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Thought for the day

All great truths begin as blasphemies.

— George Bernard Shaw
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Chakravyuh of backwardness
Is Indian sport doomed?
by Rajan Kashyap

How closely sport mimics a nation’s history! We are dismayed to find that the promised crop of world beaters has seldom materialised; not in the fabric of India’s chequered history, nor equally, in the sports arena.

Sadly, there are just a handful of snippets of glory to enthuse us: in ancient India, an Ashoka consolidating a vast empire through good governance; and more recently, an Akbar, or even a Maharaja Ranjit Singh uniting numerous warring factions into a strong national entity. Such heart-warming chapters in history are just as rare and isolated as the national feat of six consecutive gold medals in Olympic hockey, or the emergence of a Milkha Singh or P.T. Usha in athletics, a Wilson Jones in billiards, a chess prodigy Vishwanathan Anand, or a Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in shooting.

Neither the flair of these giant figures of history, nor the rare triumphs of India’s modern sporting heroes, sustained over a period of time. Golden moments of glory are little more than punctuations in our depressing records. And Indian sport has yet to build on a possible foundation offered by our modern gallants.

To assess the future prospects, it is important to understand the nature and causes of backwardness of sport in India. Most scientists agree that the potential of basic human material in most countries is similar. Backwardness, it can be argued, is not a genetic dispensation. If the decision-makers are able to allocate and utilise resources wisely, the value of the human product rises. In other words, backwardness is a self-infliction, caused by thoughtless and wasteful use of our endowments. Could it be the milieu at home that stifles latent talent?

In this perspective, one can easily identify the afflictions to which sport in India is subject. First and foremost, the structure of management, for that will determine the manner in which talent is located, nurtured, trained and exposed to competition. In all successful sporting nations with a democratic tradition, sports bodies (national federations, state and local associations) are structured democratically. This implies free and open elections, placement of professionals in executive positions, accountability, and autonomy. What we have in India is coteries of sports administrators controlling associations through a disguised autocracy. A head of a sports association usually has a political background. He transposes the very system of local politics into sports administration, where he enjoys an added advantage, i.e. that his constituency of voters is extremely small and limited — just two dozen or so representatives vote him in, or out — and consequently easy to manipulate.

Inevitably, the local interests of the constituents become paramount, and these are frequently in conflict with sporting objectives e.g. fair selection, systematic training, investment in infrastructure, long term planning etc. The welfare of players, for example, is of less consequence than the goodwill of electors. Furthermore, there is no tradition of professional management. Elected heads of federations arrogate to themselves the functions of Chief Executives for which they usually lack the skills, as also the application. This ailment, then, can be defined as pseudo-democracy in sports management.

Second, most sports bodies, in the same manner as many governments, have led themselves to financial non-viability. In market economies, sport is a commercially vibrant activity. People pay to witness quality competition, in the stadium and on television. Businesses have recognised that the essence of a match — suspense about its outcome — can keep the audience glued to the proceedings. Sports programmes generate far greater revenues to broadcasters than say, political debates. Important matches of football, tennis, basketball, boxing etc enjoy the highest ratings among programmes on TV, and consequently yield a jackpot of riches for the organisers. Shrewd management, vision and minute detailing — these are the ingredients of an effective marketing strategy. Unfortunately, most of our sports bodies have failed to even understand, let alone apply, these basics.

And so we have the unedifying spectacle of empty stadia, unsponsored tournaments, athletes in penury, demotivated coaches and dilapidated grounds. Sports associations are sitting atop a gold mine that could help to bring the game to every home, and yield handsome revenues that could be ploughed to attract professional players with lucrative offers. The potential wealth, that could have created champions and sustained them, remains untouched, unexploited.

The absence of financial skills and a marketing strategy, in short, constitutes the second major obstacle to the development of sport. Beset with financial stringency, rather, in most disciplines, insolvency, associations charged with the task of promotion of a game, become supplicants before the government for the allocation of funds even for their daily needs. Lacking in resources to pay for training, travel, equipment, even diet and clothing, national and state associations are perpetually engaged in polishing their begging bowl.

Ironically, the benefactor targeted — the government — is itself in dire financial straits, being unable to balance its own budget. Even when persuaded to meet urgent demands – in the name of national honour, stated to be at stake — the government often releases funds late, and in insufficient quantity. Hence a distrust, often hostility, between the government and autonomous sports bodies.

Not that the government itself is free of blame. In any government, administration is in the hands of civil servants. All government officials dealing with sports are not necessarily specialists in matters concerning sports, but many are still called upon to handle functions such as the creation of infrastructure and, thereafter, its day-to-day management. Ideally, the role of the government should be to build high-quality facilities such as stadia and other arena, to be delivered for imaginative use and marketing, to specialist sports organisations.

However, since the sports bodies are ill-equipped, financially and managerially, the campuses continue under direct government control. This is a tailor made recipe for unviability, for no provision is made in the budget to meet the heavy costs of maintenance of the valuable assets. The vicious circle of backwardness is now complete. Poor revenue generation leading to poor maintenance, leading further to deterioration of infrastructure, and loss of earnings. Consequently, no regeneration of resources. End result, sports promotion in reverse gear. The problem, then, is the loading of an inappropriate burden on an unsuitable agency — the government.

Sports in India is today caught in a piquant trap. Just as, in the Mahabharat, the warrior Abhimanyu had the capability to pierce the enemy lines, our country too has the right weapons — institutions, funds and raw talent — to attain its goal of sporting excellence. But again, as with the brave son of Arjun, who had not mastered the method of breaking back from the enemy formations, we have yet to extricate sport from a complicated maze of obstacles inhibiting it. The vital difference is that Abhimanyu was checked by external foes; Indian sport faces certain inbuilt enemies. Once these internal terrors are overcome, the Chakravyuh of backwardness in sport will be destroyed.

The writer is former Chief Secretary of Punjab
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Nagas sweet and sore
by Tirath Ram

In 1992, I was posted in Mariani, situated on the Border of Nagaland and Assam. One day when I was sitting in my office four or five Naga youths forcibly entered it and demanded a crate of rum failing which I may have to face the consequences. Their tone and behaviour made me angry but controlling myself, I asked them politely to sit down. Once they were seated, I started asking them as to what were they doing, where were they living and why were they in urgent need of rum.

It transpired from their talk that they were students, living in the nearby villages and had come to take part in the regional volleyball competition. They were sure to win and the rum demanded was for the celebration after the victory. Gradually they opened up. I further enquired about their studies, sports, environment in college/school and what they desired to become after completing their studies. They were intelligent, good sportsmen but blank with regards to their future prospects due to lack of proper direction.

On my revelation that I, also, was a good sportsman in my younger days, a colour holder of my college and participated up to university level, I could sense from their facial expression that suddenly they had developed respect for me. They started addressing me as “Sir”. They reminded me of my three children (two sons and a daughter) and when, I told them that my children who are of their age are also good sportsmen, they immediately started addressing me as “Uncle”.

On their acceptance of me as an uncle, I decided not to give them rum. First it is harmful and second I shall be failing in my duties as an uncle. Keeping this in view I started giving them a moral lecture that during our days a sportsman was always given milk, ghee, eggs, etc. These used to keep him fit and also prolonged his career as a sportsman. Finally I came to the point and bluntly told them that they were like my children and if they project such demand, I will prefer to thrash them rather than meeting such a foolish demand. My sudden outburst took them by surprise. There was pindrop silence in the office. Continuing, I said, it was heartening to know that they were good in studies and in sports as well. “I shall celebrate your victory by distributing sweets,”. Suddenly, the boys got up and said: “Alright uncle, then keep the sweets ready”.

After about a week, at about 10.30 am my Adm JCO came running to my office frightened and informed me that a disturbance in our camp area was expected, may be an attack from Nagas, as 40 to 50 Naga youths had entered our campus. They were shouting and asking about me. I became concerned and cautious and told him not to stop them because it may worsen the situation but keep the GREF boys ready in case of any emergency and simultaneously civil police be also alerted. As I was passing the instructions, about 10 to 15 Naga boys entered my office shouting:” Uncle! Uncle! We have won. Where are our sweets? And with a thud the trophy was kept on my table.

I started laughing loudly and started congratulating the boys. My JCO gave me a confused look. I could see a sense of relief on his face. I picked up the phone and asked the Officers Mess to send 50 cups of tea and then addressed the boys: Sorry, I can’t immediately arrange sweets as these will have to be brought from the market which is about 15 km away. However, in case you have no objection biscuits and toffees can immediately be made available”. They readily agreed.
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Making people-to-people contacts
Indians, Pakistanis learning to live as friends
by Syed Nooruzzaman

Guests from Pakistan for the recent candle-light vigil at Wagah
Guests from Pakistan for the recent candle-light vigil at Wagah. — Photo by Rajiv Sharma

The candlelight vigil ceremony organised by the Hind-Pak Dosti Manch at the Wagah border on the eve of Independence Day provided the writer an opportunity to interact with politicians, theatre personalities and housewives from Pakistan. All of them agreed that people-to-people contacts must be promoted in a big way for removing the misunderstandings between the two neighbours. It is a different matter that whenever there is a discussion on improving the relations between India and Pakistan people from the other side lay great emphasis on resolving the Kashmir issue. But it seems there is gradual realisation that increasing the contacts between the people of the two countries will soften the attitude of their governments leading to the solution of the disputes coming in the way of their efforts for friendly relations.

Here is an example of change of heart. The wife of a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, Ch. Abid Sher Ali, admitted during an interaction at Amritsar that she thought that Indians hated Pakistanis like anything. But after coming to this side of the border, though for the first time, she had a different opinion. There was no atmosphere of hatred. Indians were yearning for living as friends. She had heard of the two peoples speaking the same languages, having similar eating habits and wearing the same kinds of clothes. But she had her doubts, which disappeared after her meetings with people here.

She is not an isolated case. One can find any number of people in both countries who have changed their beliefs after meeting visitors from the opposite side. That is why there is increasing pressure from non-governmental circles for taking measures aimed at facilitating people-to-people contacts on a large scale.

The Pakistani visitors, politicians and others, agreed that measures aimed at making the border soft are bound to change the entire climate in the subcontinent. But their viewpoint was that the Kashmir issue cannot be put on the backburner in the interest of long-term peace.

Though they belonged to the two major opposition parties, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), they voiced the concern expressed by the ruling General, President Pervez Musharraf. Official Pakistan has been reluctant about promoting people-to-people contacts because of the apprehension that this is an Indian trick to undermine the significance of the Kashmir problem. Be that is it may, what is wrong if the strategy ultimately helps the cause of establishing good neighbourly relations.

Kashmir is a quagmire that must be avoided at least at this stage. Nothing should be done that prevents people from fully understanding each other and removing their suspicions in the process.

Of course, the problem will have to be solved, if not today then tomorrow, for a durable peace in the region. The solution that most Pakistanis have in their mind, according to journalist Kuldip Nayar, is that the Muslim-majority valley should go to them. In that case they will have no objection to the rest of Jammu and Kashmir remaining with India. This can never be acceptable to India because it will amount to accepting the two-nation theory, which is dead as dodo. No government in India can ever afford to accept such a proposal which will amount to destroying the very foundations of the country’s secular edifice. Any solution of Kashmir on the basis of people’s religious persuasions will lead to widespread chaos in India, weakening it from within.

Nothing less than the status quo will suit India. Some people in India like Farooq Abdullah have, from time to time, expressed their support for a solution on these lines. This appears quite logical, keeping in view the ground realities. Any solution on the basis of what happened in the past is unthinkable. Even for an agreement on the status quo on Kashmir, there is need to prepare the right atmosphere on both sides. According to Mr Nayar, the moving spirit behind the Dosti Manch, the Kashmiris’ aspirations can be taken care of by making the border as soft as possible.

General Musharraf’s latest remarks, as telecast by PTV on August 16, indicate that he has some idea up his sleeve. That impression one gathers from his statement promising fast movement on Kashmir, appreciating India’s sincerity in pursuing the dialogue process. But more significant than this was his admission that one of the factors causing a change in the environment in the region was the increasing public pressure on India and Pakistan to live as friends.

The truth is that there is no other way to lead a “safe, secure and normal life” as Dr Manmohan Singh said in his Independence Day speech. But the process of changing the atmosphere of suspicion and distrust needs to be further strengthened to take it to its logical conclusion. This can be easily done if the new set of proposals — numbering as many as 75 and covering areas like art and culture, education, science and technology, youth affairs, mass media, tourism, the electoral machinery and visits to religious places — made by India recently are taken up seriously. Pakistan too may add to the otherwise long list for greater interaction between Indians and Pakistanis.

Some well-meaning people are suggesting that India should not wait for Pakistan’s response and give the lead in making the visa regime easier for the visitors belonging to the areas identified by it. This may force Pakistan to react on positive lines. India will in the process earn appreciation not only from the people in the subcontinent but also the rest of the world.
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Chatterati
by Devi Cherian

A tryst with the Gandhis

At Jawahar Bhawan last week Sonia Gandhi released books of family patriarch Jawaharlal Nehru. The invitation card read 6.00 p.m. and dot on time in a crisp sari, the hair tied back neatly with a clip, pearl dots on her ears, the ever-immaculate Sonia Gandhi walked into the hall in her trademark brisk walk. Accompanying her was the head of Penguin publications Aveek Sarkar dressed, as always, traditionally, in his Kolkata style dhoti kurta.

Priyanka Gandhi was a bit early and, as always, was escorted by her husband Robert. A ripple went though the crowd when the bespectacled young Rahul Gandhi smiled his way towards his seat.

Delhi’s most powerful and beautiful people were there for the celebration of the publication of the new editions of Jawaharlal Nehru’s works, — “An Autobiography”, “The Discovery of India” and “The Glimpses of World History”. Natwar Singh, Shiv Raj Patil, Jaipal Reddy, Meera Kumar were present with friends of the family like Romi Chopra, Sunita and Ramesh Kohli, Naveen and Titi Chawla along with Moni Malhotra, who also heads the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

The readings of the books were done brilliantly by Roshan Seth, Soha Ali and Montek Ahluwalia. Soha’s parents — Sharmila Tagore and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi — were really proud that day. The ceremony over, it was time for the selected few to mingle with the friendly Gandhis and VIPs freely over tea and the well-chosen and delicious snacks. This evening was truly a tryst with the Gandhi family.

Mallika and music 

Now, when Mallika Sarabhai and her group of five dancers perform in the Capital on cool monsoon evenings, obviously the evenings will be scintillating. The evening at Taj was focused on art, dance and music. The culturatti of the capital got together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the murals painted on the walls on one of its restaurants by none other than the famous artist, Anjali Ela Menon. The performance was about shackles that women the world over have to endure.

Singing alongside was Samia Malik, a British Pakistani. Over drinks and hors’d oeuvres guests admired the paintings also on display put together by Sanjay Bhattacharya, Dharmendra Rathore and Shamshad Hussain. The conversation was dominated by the recent controversies dogging the art world. The artists and buyers are a worried lot about fake works out there masquerading as real things. Touring all over India, this team will donate all performance of “Colours of Heart” for charity.  

New gen’s new ideas

In our times we had moral science education. Today’s kids are now learning about different wines, when, how and which glass to serve them in. At DPS International a 40-week module includes assembly etiquette, art of talking to art of sitting, dressing skin & hair care, table manners by trained professionals. These are almost like a part and parcel of the regular syllabus. How to hold your cutlery, set a table, what to do when someone breaks an expensive thing at your house. Also how to keep calm in a crisis and what to wear when.

Obviously with multinationals coming fast into our nation and exposure through our electronic media, our youngsters are very aware that they need to learn the ways of the world. Of course, that way we Indians are very sharp in making a business out of anything. Hence, now in the Capital we have finishing schools for almost everything. Excellent, I must say, except I do think laying emphasis on moral science again would also be a good idea.
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Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Subjugation of senses is described as fasting. Therefore, those who have conquered their senses are said to be fasting even though they may be taking food.

— Lord Mahavir

I am the slave of my Master (God) and have grasped His feet. He is the life-of-all-life and has rid me of my ego.

— Guru Nanak

Where is fate, and who is fate? We reap what we sow. We are the makers of our own fate. None else has the blame, none has the praise. We make our own destiny.

— Swami Vivekananda

Man may dismiss compassion from his heart, but God will never.

— Cowper
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