P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Campaign ends with show of strength
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Congress candidate from the Beas constituency Jasbir Singh Dimpa at another election rally, at Rayya
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Congress candidate from the Beas constituency Jasbir Singh Dimpa at another election rally, at Rayya on Friday. — Photo by Rajiv Sharma

Rayya, March 9
The cacophony of electioneering in this area of Punjab ended here today with a show of strength organised by the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine candidates.

Addressing a massive rally in favour of Congress candidate Jasbir Singh Dimpa, Capt Amarinder Singh, former chief minister, said they would file an appeal in the apex court for handing over the corruption cases to the tune of Rs 3,500 crore against the SAD supremo from the Vigilance Bureau to the CBI.

Commenting on the scrapping of the vigilance commission by Badal, he said it was an attempt to scuttle the investigations going on in the case against the Badals. He questioned how the Vigilance Bureau could fairly investigate the charges against them as it would be under his direct control.

Criticising the allotting of portfolios by the government, he said Badal was not interested in the overall development of the state as he had adjusted seven of his family members in the Cabinet, besides keeping major portfolios like Excise and Taxation with himself. He said Badal had no concern with farmers problems as he had allocated the agriculture portfolio to an illiterate person.

He said the rift between SAD and the BJP have started surfacing as the central leadership of the BJP had threatened to withdraw support to the SAD if it proceeded with the amendment to Article 5 of the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004 which could affect the BJP government in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

He said Badal was befooling the people by saying that the matter would be discussed at a later stage as the new Cabinet had already taken a decision to withdraw the amendment.

Lashing out at Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal for befooling the common man by making false promises during the elections he said the SAD-BJP government had backtracked on the two major promises made to the people only after a few days of the formation of the government. He said the Akali Dal supremo had announced in its manifesto that they would provide wheat and pulses at Rs 4 and Rs 20, respectively, but he has backtracked on his promise by saying that these would only be provided to people below the poverty line and holding yellow card.

He said this was already being provided by the Central Government and there was nothing new in the announcement made by Badal.

Warning Badal and his son against taking vindictive action against Congress workers, he said they should not forget that the Congress was in power at the Centre and would make every effort to save its workers.

Meanwhile, addressing a SAD rally at the Rayya grain market, Badal said Capt Singh had looted the state exchequer by giving sops to big industrialists in pretext of setting up mega projects in the state.

He said all cases would be reviewed by the government.

He said he would soon meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as the Congress government had been interfering in the affairs of the SGPC and wanted to split it by setting separate gurdwara management committees in other states.

He reiterated that his government would not be vindictive and that law would take its own course if anything came out against any members of the previous government.


No code violation: Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 9
SAD president Parkash Singh Badal today said that he did not flout the election code by holding a rally in a high school ground of Bhorsha Rajputan in the Beas Assembly segment yesterday.

He said permission from the competent authority was taken to hold the rally. There was no question of violating the code of conduct, he said in a statement issued here today by his party office.

However, he said he had expressed regret for the inconvenience caused to the students who were appearing in an examination in the school.


Centre to maximise wheat procurement
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 9
Facing a difficult situation because of the high price of wheat and its flour in the open market, the union government has begun efforts to maximise the procurement of wheat from Punjab and Haryana, both wheat-surplus states, in April .

Sources said union food secretary T.Nand Kumar will hold a meeting here tomorrow with senior officers of the Punjab and Haryana governments with regard to the procurement of wheat in this region. Senior officers of the Food Corporation of India from Delhi would also be present at the meeting.

The union government is expecting the procurement of 90 lakh tonnes of wheat from Punjab and about 45 lakh tonnes from Haryana. As the weather remained favourable for the wheat crop in both states during February and in the first week of March, there is a possibility of an increase in the production.

Punjab’s director of agriculture Balwinder Singh Sidhu said earlier the estimate of production was 145 lakh tonnes. However, as the conditions remained highly favourable for the wheat crop during the past five weeks in this region, the production was expected to touch 150 lakh tonnes in Punjab, he added.

However, at tomorrow’s meeting both states will ask the union food secretary to raise the procurement price of wheat to Rs 850 per quintal to ensure better procurement for the central pool. In fact, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has already written a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to raise the procurement price to Rs 850 from the existing minimum support price of Rs 750 per quintal.

The sources said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had also prepared a letter in this regard. He would leave for Delhi to meet the Prime Minister and the President of India. Besides, he is also scheduled to meet some other senior leaders in Delhi. The sources said efforts were being made to fix his appointment with union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. If the meeting with Pawar materialises, he will hand over the letter to him, it is learnt.

Punjab government officials who will take part in the meeting convened by the union food secretary will inform him that they will ensure wheat procurement of up to 95 lakh tonnes if the procurement price is hiked to Rs 850 per quintal. Last time, 82 lakh tonnes of wheat was procured in Punjab. Of it, 69 lakh tonnes was procured by the government agencies and the rest by private companies and traders.

Meanwhile, perturbed over reports that the union government is contemplating blocking the entry of private traders and companies to give a free hand to government agencies to procure wheat at the minimum support price (Rs 750 per quintal) in April, the BKU today said it would launch an agitation if such a step was taken by the Manmohan Singh government.

Mr Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the Punjab unit of the BKU, said the union government would be stabbing the farming community in the back if it put curbs on the free sale of wheat in the open market in April.

Rajewal said his union would hold a march in Delhi on March 29 to seek a higher price for wheat.


Mass copying in Gurdaspur schools; maths paper out
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, March 9
Mass copying continued in various parts of the district in the Class XII examinations of the Punjab School Education Board.

Today during the mathematics paper the nexus helping the students was fully operational.

The mathematics question papers were out at the centres in Sujanpur just 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the examination. The Tribune got a copy of mathematics paper from the locals.

Well oiled machinery was working to help the candidates appearing for the examinations. As soon as a copy of the question paper was out, it was xeroxed and sold to helpers of students who had gathered around the examination centres. The services of private mathematics teachers were hired to solve the question paper.

The solved answers were then sent to the examination centres to help students appearing in the examinations. The whole exercise was carried out at these centres with the help of policemen deputed there and the examination centre staff. In Sujanpur, the policemen were found carrying solved papers to the students at the examination centres.

The flying staff of the Education Department visited some centres. However, the copying was checked at the centres for time period the flying squad team stayed there. but once they left, the whole exercise began once again.

At certain examination centres some of the students were allowed to solve papers even after the stipulated time period with the help of the examination staff.

The copying in rural schools of the district is an annual exercise. Despite the fact that the Education Department authorities are well aware about the practices of mass copying, they fail to take steps to curb it. Unfortunately, the mass copying at some of the centres is carried out under the patronage of local politicians .

However, the mass copying that is carried out in many of schools is a setback for hard working students. The disturbance at the centres where copying in carried out is another factor that perturbs the hard working students. The district education authorities were not available for comments.


News Analysis
Will Badal take high moral stand and resign?
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 9
When a Ranchi court framed charges against Union railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and 69 others in the fodder scam case, the BJP was quick to demand his resignation, arguing that he had no moral authority to continue in office.

Similarly, when Balram Yadav, former minister in the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh, was charge-sheeted in the Ayurveda scam, the BJP even went to the extent of seeking the resignation of Chief Minister Mulayam Singh, asking him to do so by owning moral responsibility for the scam.

At that time, the Congress, a close ally of Lalu Prasad, had taken the stand that Lalu was under no legal or ethical compulsion to resign. Union law minister H.R. Bhardwaj argued that since the railway minister had not been convicted, there was no question of his ouster from the ministry.

The official line taken by the Congress was the same: Lalu Yadav did not have to resign.

It remains to be seen what line the BJP, which claims to be a party with a difference and which is the junior partner in the Badal-led government, takes now.

Will it seek Badal’s ouster as charges against him as outlined by the prosecution have been prima facie acknowledged as carrying substance? Or will Badal give up the post on his own free will?

Another question that begs an answer is how fair and free the prosecution will be, now that the main accused runs the government. Not only that, Badal, apart from being the minister in-charge of Home, holds the critical Vigilance portfolio too.

Ever since the SAD-BJP alliance ousted the previous government, proceedings of the case against the Chief Minister, his MP-son Sukhbir Singh Badal and others have been turned into a farce, with the prosecution openly toeing the defence line.

Indian polity is full of instances of VIP accused, who get hold of a seat of power, using or misusing (depending on which side of the fence you are), the same unabashedly to fix the case.

Instances of investigating agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), changing tack after the change of government are aplenty.

But, a proactive and aggressive judiciary has held its own, often intervening effectively to check rogue investigating agencies from assisting the high-profile accused get a clean chit.

In the case against the Badal family, the investigating agency, Punjab Vigilance Bureau, spent crores of public money to “unearth” a mass of evidence against the accused. When Badal and others moved the Supreme Court challenging the legality of the trial, top lawyers of the country were paid lakhs of rupees to put forth the prosecution view-point.

But, with the change of government, things too changed.

Lawyers on the prosecution side openly fighting and entering into war-of-words with each other, the highly questionable acts of the Ropar district attorney, who, one may be pardoned for thinking, had accepted a brief for the defence and special public prosecutors (SPP) refusing to appear further in the case: all these were ominous signs.

While only time, and a fair trial, will tell if the cases foisted on the Badal family and its associates by the previous Congress government were true, today’s ruling by special judge G.S. Saran has certainly dealt a serious blow to the Badal government’s credibility.

The latest twist in the case will also give a handle to the opposition Congress, which is still to recover from the drubbing that it received at the hands of the electorate, to beat the government with.

Only time will tell how effectively the government deals with the issue and how the Congress reacts.


Cong men gherao MLA ‘buying’ votes; Beas tense
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Beas, March 9
BSF jawans had to intervene to rescue Sarbjit Singh Makkar, Akali MLA from Adampur, who was reportedly gheraoed by Congress activists led by Congress candidate for Beas Jasbir Singh Dimpa, at Daule Nangal village late in the evening. Para military forces have been deputed at all 129 polling stations of the Beas constituency to ensure free and fair polling on March 11.

The situation in the constituency is tense. Senior police and civil officers have rushed to the site.

Mr Dimpa alleged that the gherao followed reports that leaders of the ruling party were distributing money to lure the voters at the end of campaigning. On the other hand, the Akali Dal alleged that it was Congress leaders who had resorted to distribution of money in the constituency. Leaders of both parties went around the constituency with lights atop their vehicles.

District election officer Kirandip Singh Bhullar asked the police officials to ensure peace. He asked the SSP and returning officer to ask outsiders to leave as per the directions of the Election Commission of India.

He sent RO Kuldip Singh Chandi and the S.P. (Headquarters) to rush go to Dollen Nangal where the trouble had erupted. When contacted, election observer S.Gupta said he could not reveal the contents of the report he had sent to the head office.

He had sent security personnel to Chhapianwali and Waraich villages where illicit liquor was being distilled. Para military forces, including the BSF and Special Commandos, had been deployed in all villages.

The election in Beas was postponed to March 11 by the EC after the death of an Akali worker there on January 29.

It has become a prestige issue with the Congress and the ruling SAD-BJP to win the election from this constituency with a big margin.

It is learnt that the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal spoke to senior police officers following reports of the gherao of the Adampur MLA.


Power supply to ex-MLA’s houses snapped
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 9
The Punjab State Electricity Board disconnected electricity supply to houses occupied by the former Congress MLA Parkash Singh Bhatti from Balluana constituency here last evening, official sources said. On condition of anonymity, the PSEB officials were under pressure during the Congress regime to defer recoveries that had mounted up to Rs 2.04 lakh.

Bhatti had quit job in the PSEB in 2002 to contest election and won with a small margin. He lost this time to Gurtej Singh Ghuriana of the SAD.

According to sources the PSEB had sanctioned electricity connection in the name of Harjit Kaur, wife of Parkash Singh Bhatti in a farmhouse located on the southern bypass. After the election, the family shifted to a palatial house developed opposite convent school on the Seeto road by taking bank loan. Electricity connection was availed in the name of Kuljit Kaur, wife of Harbhajan Singh, as it was technically not possible to have new connection sanctioned, without clearing the dues. His younger brother occupied the old house, sources added.

SDE Piare Lal led the PSEB team to disconnect supplies. However, some of his supporters regretted the Board officials had not taken any solid step to recover Rs 50 lakh from the Municipal Council. Other major defaulters included, DSP (Rs 43,000), SHO city (Rs 64,000) and civil hospital (Rs 17.90 lakh).

The PSEB officials said the Board had asked all divisions to intensify campaign to recover maximum dues before March 31 as the new government was expected to take a serious view of the delay.


Improvement trust chief quits
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 9
City Congress general secretary Mathura Dass Hiteshi has resigned as chairman of the Improvement Trust. All other trustees have also decided to quit on moral ground.

In his letter dated March 8 addressed to the Local Bodies principal secretary, Hiteshi stated that keeping in view his appointment by the Congress government in June 2003 it becomes his moral duty to discontinue in the chair after formation of the SAD-BJP government in Punjab.

The other members of the trust, Rajiv Khanna, Subhash Vij and Vinod Mehta who had been nominated by the state government, besides Manminder Singh, Chiranji Lal Soni and Mohan Lal, signed identical but separate letters of resignation. A copy of the letter was sent to Congress MLA Sunil Jakhar, sources said.


Only a few travel agents are convicted for cheating
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Moga, March 9
The police may have booked several travel agents for having duped those aspiring to go abroad, but a few convictions due to the lack of documentary evidence has paved the way for such agents to continue with their corrupt practices.

With at least two cases being registered against travel agents every month in the district for allegedly swindling youths, who desire to settle abroad, many have started expressing concerns and demanding that a competent authorities should be asked to check the activities of the deceitful agents.

Social observers maintain that with shrinking landholdings and fewer opportunities to work here, youths pursue travel agents seeking their help in getting visas to go abroad. However, many are left with shattered dreams as even after paying hefty amounts demanded by the travel agents, they are unable to go abroad.

Some travel agents even promise rewarding jobs to the aspirants for which they charge extra. The charges may vary between Rs 2 lakh to Rs 10 lakh depending upon the circumstances. Generally, the travel agents charge anything between Rs 25, 000 to Rs 1.5 lakh for preparing the documents that are required for visa. The agents make indisputable promises of getting visa of the desired country.

After having failed to reach the promised land, the youths find themselves and their parents debt-ridden and some have to even sell their properties to pay off the debts.

Narinder Singh, one of the aspirants who could not make it to the USA, said it was his childhood dream to settle abroad. Barely out of his teens, Narinder approached a travel agent who made tall claims and assured him that if he could pay around Rs 15 lakh, he could surely settle in the USA.

It is not an isolated instance, but many like Narinder are looking forward to settle abroad. This undying craze to settle abroad has not only led to mushrooming of travel agencies across the district but has also provided the devious agents with opportunities to cheat.

Senior police officials said maximum complaints of cheatings were against the travel agents. Though many were booked but they were rarely convicted as the victims were not in possession of any written proof of money transactions that had taken place between them and the agents and thus the agents managed to go scot free.

Police sources said in some cases the aggrieved persons strike a compromise with the accused with an aim to recover a smaller amount of money that was paid to the agent by them.

The sources in the police said the conviction rate in such cases was quite low. “There are only few cases in which the victims were in possession of documents that could proof the dishonesty of the travel agents and the accused were convicted,” said a senior police official.

He maintained that despite some shortcomings in checking the deceitful travel agents, the police was putting in best efforts to protect the citizens from such devious persons.


Minor raped
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 9
A minor girl was allegedly raped on the International Women Day here yesterday.

According to information, the victim had been sleeping at night in the neighbour’s house to take care of a pregnant woman in the absence of her husband. As the girl went out of the house located in the Panjpeer Tibba locality near the city bypass yesterday to answer the call of nature, a boy of the same area allegedly raped her. As some persons rushed to the site after hearing her cries the culprit fled.

The police got the victim examined at Nehru Memorial Civil Hospital. Investigation was in progress, the police said.

Meanwhile Veerpal Kaur told the police inside female ward of the civil hospital that her Nanak Nagri based in-laws in a bid to grab her share in the immovable property yesterday tried to serve poison but she escaped.


Farmers' conference on March 23
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 9
To deliberate on the problems facing the farming community, the BKU, Ugraha, has decided to hold a farmers' conference at Fatehgarh Chhana village in Barnala on March 23, which is also the martyrdom day of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

BKU general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan disclosed this in a press note issued here today.

While the village has been in the centre of a trident land acquisition row, union president Joginder Singh Ugraha and vice-president Jhanda Singh Jethuke have been under arrest over the issue. Kokri alleged that both their leaders were "implicated in false cases".

He said the preparations for the conference had begun from today with rallies and meetings at the block and village levels. He said they would spread Bhagat Singh's views to each and every household under their awareness drive ahead of the conference.

He said Bhagat's ideology had become more relevant in the present times. 


Dimpa’s brother produced in court
Tribune News Service

Rayya, March 9
An emotional scene was created when Harpinder Singh Gill Rajan, a brother of Congress candidate from Beas Jasbir Singh Dimpa, was being taken back to the jail after producing him in the court at Baba Bakala, waved to the crowd here today.

Congress in charge for the Beas assembly constituency Rana Gurjit Singh, directed the gathering towards the van which was carrying Rajan and said: "See our lion was being taken to jail who had been implicated in a false case of murder." Reacting quickly, the gathering, especially the women, stood up on their feet, turned and waved to the brother of Dimpa.

Rajan was arrested in connection with the murder of an Akali worker who died of bullet wounds on January 29 in poll related violence in the constituency. 


Ex-CM’s son chargesheeted
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 9
A local court here has framed charges against Gurbir Singh, former general secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and son of former Chief Minister, Gurnam Singh, for a breach of the trust under section 406 of the IPC.

The charges framed on February 15 certified copies of which were made available on March 7) by Judicial Magistrate, Tarsem Mangla said: “You being the president, trustee of the Guru Nanak Education Trust, Model Town, Ludhiana, have committed a criminal breach of the trust by misappropriating Rs 16,500 through cheque 797885 dated 30.11.96 from trust account no.15594 maintained in the State Bank of India, Dugri Road, Ludhiana, by issuing this cheque to your advocate Atul Lakhanpal as fee for your personal cases.”

The order added: “As such you being entrusted with the trust amount, have committed a criminal breach of the trust by using that amount for your personal use.” 


Farmers throng kisan mela
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 9
PAU vice-chancellor Kirpal Singh Aulakh today exhorted the farmers to prepare themselves for emerging challenges in the field of agriculture and go in for value addition of their produce.

Addressing a kisan mela here today, Aulakh emphasised on diversification and urged the farmers to cultivate fruits and vegetables, which could fetch them more income in this region. He also called for saving environment for sustaining agriculture in Punjab.

He disclosed that the PAU was popularising net farming technology for vegetable cultivation in collaboration with the Punjab Farmers Commission. Quoting in-depth data about various crops, he appreciated the role of farmers in ushering in green revolution in the country.

Board of management member Supinder Kaur Cheema advised the farmers to observe austerity on social functions and avoid wasteful expenditure on non-productive purposes. She called for launching a strong movement against the increasing drug menace in the state.

Director of research B.S. Dhillon highlighted the research accomplishments of the university. He recommended soil testing to the farmers to ensure optimum and balanced use of nutrients.

On agricultural machinery, he revealed that laser land leveling technology was important for efficient use of water as it reduced irrigation time and enhanced productivity of other non-farm inputs too. He asked the farmers to spray only recommended pesticides in suggested dose at right time.

Director of extension education N.S. Malhi said agricultural diversification required careful planning and implementation. He expressed his deep concern over the fast depletion of the water table in the state. He exhorted the farmers to contact krishi vigyan kendras for availing training in various agricultural and allied enterprises.

Meanwhile, seed sale counters put up at the fair witnessed a huge rush of farmers. A technical session was also organised during which experts from different fields apprised the farmers of the latest advances in production and protection technologies of various crops, besides answering their queries. Regional station director Dulcha Singh Brar was also present.


Vigilance nabs MC engineer
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 9
The Patiala vigilance bureau nabbed a Rajpura-based assistant municipal engineer for allegedly accepting illegal gratification here today.

Acting on a tip-off, a team of the bureau raided the office of Raj Kishen, working as assistant municipal engineer with the Rajpura municipal committee, and nabbed him when he was trying to accept bribe money worth Rs 10,000, which was recovered by the vigilance sleuths.

He was booked by the bureau under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

When the sleuths searched his car, Rs 1.45 lakh more was recovered, which Raj Kishen could not account for.


Absconding smuggler held with 1 kg heroin
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 9
A notorious absconding smuggler of Amritsar, who owned one acre land across the border, was arrested today with one kg heroin. The seized heroin is stated to be worth Rs 1 crore in international market.

SSP S.S Srivastav said the smuggler Ranjit Singh, alias Rana, who is a resident of Naushehra Dhalla village was arrested by SHO of Serai Amanat Khan police station Sulakhan Singh on a tip off today while he was waiting for the consignment at Defence line.

Rana has been involved in the smuggling since 1980. Earlier, a case of smuggling was registered against Rana on December 25, 2005.

The customs department had recovered 12.5 kg gold from Rana and his accomplices from his Amritsar residence in 2005.

A case under the NDPS Act has been registered against Rana. Srivastav said the police was making efforts to establish links of Rana across the border.

Earlier, on March 1 the special narcotics cell of Amritsar had achieved major success when it arrested two notorious Indo Pak smugglers and seized 10 kg of heroin worth Rs 10 crore in international market and a new car from them. A case under Sections 21/61/85 of the NDPS Act was registered against them in the B-Division police station of the city.


Held for selling spurious seeds
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 9
The police and officials of the Department of Agriculture in a joint offensive today arrested a farmer for selling spurious Bt cottonseed in this sub division. According to the information, Sadar SHO Gurcharan Singh, ASI Gurmeet Singh accompanied by ADO Gurwinder Singh raided a premise at Bazidpur Bhoma village near inter-state border and recovered 168 packets of spurious Bt cottonseed carrying Ankush, Krinti and Big Trishul marking from a farmer Kishan Lal.

Preliminary investigation indicated that he had illegally purchased seed from Gujarat at the rate Rs 150 and had been selling the same in the region for Rs 400-500 each. The seized stock would be examined at the Nagpur lab, officials said. A case had been registered against the culprit under the section 7 of the EC Act, section 7 and 9 of the Seed Act, section 3 of the Seed Control Act and section 420 of the IPC.

This was the first action taken by the Agriculture Department to check the sale of spurious seed after the formation of the new government in Punjab.


GND varsity to teach Hindi in China

Amritsar, March 9
The Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) would teach Hindi in China in the first phase of the academic collaboration between the GNDU and various Chinese universities.

Vice-Chancellor, GNDU Dr Jai Rup Singh, while inaugurating an International level photographic exhibition "Focus Snowland", said that the arrangements to teach Punjabi to the Chinese would follow after this. The exhibition, depicting the history, religion, culture, education, ancient architecture and scenic beauty of Tibet was organised by the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in collaboration with the GNDU and India-China Friendship Association (ICFA) at the University premises here today.

Political counsellor of the Embassy Li Minggang inaugurated the exhibition. Speaking on the occasion Li said that China would welcome the Indian students and scholars for interaction purposes.

The VC said with this exhibition, a new academic era had been started between India and China and such initiatives would be helpful in strengthening the ties between the two countries.


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