P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Bus fare hike on cards
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 13
Bus passengers in Punjab should be ready to pay more. The Punjab government will recover toll charges from them for travelling in Punjab Roadways and PRTC buses.

Replying to a question in this regard in the Punjab Assembly today, transport minister Master Mohan Lal said proposal in this regard was under consideration.

He said there could be an increase of Rs 6 in the bus fare for travelling up to 95 km. There would be no toll charges for travelling up to 9 km, he informed.

Replying to a question on the construction of a dam by the Haryana government on Kaushalaya rivulet, irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon said there was no proposal for partnership in the proposed dam.

Sekhon said Punjab had opposed construction of the dam because it would harm the interests of farmers.

He said the Central Water Commission had made it clear the proposal regarding the construction of the dam would only be considered when the states falling in the basin of the Ghaggar river would sign a pact regarding sharing of water.

On the issue of the sale of property of Blue Fox hotel,owned Municipal Corporation at Bathinda, local bodies minister Manoranjan Kalia said the corporation had the right to transfer the property in question to the state government for sale.

To another question, Kalia said the Punjab government had prepared a master plan for area around Bathinda Oil Refinery for integrated development and setting up ancillary units in that area.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced ex gratia grant for those killed in an accident near Batala.


Panel on mishaps: No debate in House
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 13
Concern for rising number of deaths in road accidents in Punjab that dominated Zero hour in Punjab Vidhan Sabha, with the ruling alliance and the opposition showing unanimity to redress the issue, was not allowed to be debated further by speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon.

After the issue was once again raised by Sukhpal Singh Khaira of the Congress, pointing out four more deaths on the Amritsar - Pathankot road yesterday and parliamentary secretary Jagdish Sawhney appraised the House about the death toll in yesterday’s bus accident having risen to 12, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal announced compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the next of kin and Rs 50,000 and 25 ,000 to the injured.

But no mention was made about the fate of proposal to form a House committee. The demand for forming a joint committee came from Khaira yesterday after which cooperation minister Captain Kanwaljit Singh said the Treasury Benches had no objection to forming such a committee.

Today, however when the subject was again taken up during the Zero hour, Badal expressing sorrow over the deaths announced relief, but at the same time turned a deaf ear to the demand by health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla asking the government to make a uniform policy on compensation for all road accident victims.

During Zero hour, Congress legislator Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria brought to attention of the House in general and the Chief Minister in particular what he called “ongoing political vendetta”.

He pointed out Balwinder Kaur of Chak Mishri Khan village under police station Lopoke was beaten up yesterday at the behest of a sub-inspector relative of a senior Akali politician.

He had done this because she, being the block president of the Congress, had written to the state Election Commission to transfer the sub-inspector to hold a free and fair gram panchayat, block samiti and zila parishad elections.

Chief Minister Badal assured the House he would ask the state DGP to submit a report to him in this regard by the evening and “if found guilty action would be taken against the policemen concerned.”


Release of Sarabjit Singh
SAD chief wants PM to intervene
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 13
President of the Shiromani Akali Dal Sukhbir Singh Badal today sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention to secure the release of Indian citizen Sarabjit Singh.

He is on death row in Pakistan after the rejection of his mercy plea by Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf.

In a communiqué addressed to the Prime Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal impressed upon him to direct the Ministry of External Affairs to take up the issue with its counterpart in Pakistan.


Misuse of Funds
Board of labour societies dissolved
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 13
The joint registrar, Cooperative Societies, Punjab, has dissolved the board of directors of the Labour and Construction Societies Union, Ropar, following a complaint of alleged misuse of union funds by office-bearers.

Certain labour societies alleged that office-bearers or the board of directors used union funds to bid for contracts in the Nangal Municipal Council. After using the funds, the directors kept certain works with themselves and gave petty works to other labour societies.

The labour societies alleged that the directors had used their collective money against them in contract bidding.

On the complaint of labour societies, the deputy director, Cooperative Society, stayed the resolution through which the board of directors had used union funds to bid for contracts.

A notice was also issued to the directors. As per order issued recently, the deputy director has held that the board was dissolved as they did not reply to the notice.

The dissolution of the board has also put a question mark on various development works allotted to the union of labour societies by the council.

The Department of Local Bodies in the recent past withdrew all benefits extended to labour and construction societies in the allotment of contracts.

This brought the labour societies and other contractors on an equal footing while bidding for contracts.

At Nangal many labour societies bid for contracts. In their competition the Labour Society Union also bid for contracts that created the present situation.

The labour societies hit due to union bidding alleged the union had no legal authority to bid for contracts. The union was a platform to redress the grievances of labour societies that were its members.

The union itself cannot act as a contractor against its own members. The authorities of the council, however, ignored the objections and allotted contracts to the union.

Now that the board has been dissolved, a question mark has been put over the legality of contracts allotted to union as a contractor. The sources here said both parties now were planning to get the matter resolved.


Another in debt ends life
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Sultanpur Lodhi, March 13
Another man in debt committed suicide in the Doaba region in a month. Jaswinder Singh Kala hanged himself to death at Karshaidpur village under Nakodar police station in Jalandhar on February 11.

Inderjeet Kali committed suicide by consuming some poisonous substance in Sultanpur Lodhi sub-division of Kapurthala district on March 12 night due to harassment by moneylenders.

A class IV employee of Sultanpur Lodhi Municipal Council, Kali (32) of Darjian mohalla here stated to the police in his dying statement he had taken this extreme step due to harassment by Rajinder Kumar alias Bittu Bhalwan of Sultanpur Lodhi.

Sultanpur Lodhi DSP Tarloachan Singh said Kali stated to the police he had borrowed Rs 20,000 from Rajinder Kumar a few years ago and returned more than Rs 3.5 lakh to him in several instalments but even after that he neither returned him his `parnote’ nor signed blank papers.

Rajinder Kumar had told him he had yet to repay Rs 30,000 more which would become 40,000 if he failed to give these in a fortnight, Kali reportedly told the police, adding Rajinder also threatened him he would get his house transferred in his name.

Kali wrote his ordeal on a piece of paper right before committing suicide yesterday evening. He sent a copy of the it to Kapurthala SSP Rakesh Agarwal and another copy to the president of the MC Employees Union through courier, he told the police.

The DSP said a first information report (FIR) was registered against the money lender under Section 306 (abetment to suicide) on his dying statement but he was at large.

Perturbed by Kali’s suicide due to harassment, the activists of the Pendu Mazdoor Union (PMU), the Mazdoor Nirman Union, the Khet Mazdoor Union blocked traffic at Talwandi Chaudriyan chowk in Sultanpur Lodhi from noon to 5.30 pm demanding arrest of the accused.

The dharna was lifted only after assurance from SDM KS Chandi and DSP Tarloachan Singh the accused would be nabbed within two days, said demonstrator Des Raj.

The PMU state president Tarsem Peter said the union and Punjab governments should make policies to provide relief to the debt-ridden poor persons including Dalits and landless labourers. His wife died some time back, Kali is survived by two minor children.


Privatisation of ITIs
Students hold rallies
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 13
Activists of the Joint Student Front, comprising Punjab Students’ Union (PSU), Punjab Radical Students’ Union (PRSU), Students’ Federation of India (SFI), All India Students’ Association (AISA), and Punjab Students’ Federation (PSF) today held rallies and demonstrations at various places in the state against the proposed handing over of ITIs to private companies under the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme in the state.

In a press release, general secretary, PSU, Dharminder Patran said the students today held rallies and demonstrations at various places to oppose the government’s policy of privatisation of the ITIs in a big way. Leaders of the students’ organisations alleged that the government was “snatching” education facilities from the common masses by handing over the educational institutions to private parties.

Dharminder Patran said the Centre had decided to cover 300 ITIs under the PPP scheme every year. He said in place of overall development of the students, the government wants to make them only “employees” of these private companies.


SAD forms panels for ZP poll
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 13
Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal has said the party will contest the zila parishad and block samiti elections on the party symbol.

In a statement, Badal said committees had been constituted to finalise
party candidates.

The following are the party observers for the different districts: Dr Upinderjit Kaur (Gurdaspur); Capt Kanwaljit Singh (Amritsar); Gurdev Singh Badal (Jalandhar); Dr Rattan Singh (Kapurthala); Maheshinder Singh Grewal (Hoshiarpur); Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur (Nawanshahr); Sucha Singh Langah (Ropar); Balwinder Singh Bhundar (Ludhiana); Bibi Jagir Kaur (Patiala); Sewa Singh Sekhwan (Sangrur and Barnala); Tota Singh (Bathinda); Ranjit Singh Brahmpura (Muktsar); Gulzar Singh Ranike (Ferozepur); Ajit Singh Kohar (Moga); Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar (Faridkot); Sarwan Singh Phillaur (Mansa); Surjit Singh Rakhra (Fatehgarh Sahib); Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra (Tarn Taran) and Hira Singh Gabria (Mohali).


Repainting of Darshani Deori
Crude, say experts; work stopped
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 13
Repainting of the upper portion of Darshani Deori, which leads to sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple, with gaudy colours, crude workmanship and inappropriate materials through “kar sewa” has been stopped on the intervention of senior SGPC officials.

The repainting was being carried out by the followers of Baba Harbans Singh Delhi at behest of the SGPC.

Gurmit Rai, director, Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative, who visited the Golden Temple yesterday, raised the first objection.

Harbhajan Singh, manager, Darbar Sahib, said the “kar sewa” was stopped immediately when Dalmegh Singh, secretary, informed him that experts were being called to carry out the repainting work.

Senior SGPC officials also found that the artwork being done through “kar sewa” was not as per the traditional work.

Earlier, heritage experts had raised objections over the damage of heritage of Ramgarhia Bungas in the Darbar Sahib Complex, which has been in the possession of the followers of Baba Harban Singh Delhi.

Some portions of the Ramgarhia Bungas were being used for residential purposes, much to the chagrin of heritage lovers.

Those who carried out the “kar sewa” of the buildings had already damaged many invaluable murals, frescoes and other artistic works in the Golden Temple, Baba Atal and Ramgarhia Bungas due to lack of expertise.

Gurmit Rai said while the form of the building was intact, finish continued to be altered extensively though some remnants of the original finishes exist even today. She said all efforts should be made to conserve the historic fabric.


Student dies under mysterious circumstances
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, March 13
Bharpoor Singh (16), a class 10 student of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyala, Goindwal, died under mysterious circumstances here today.

According to sources, Bharpoor had been feeling uneasy since yesterday and was not able to attend his classes.

He had gone to sleep without taking food. Later at night he started vomiting. His roommates called a Vidyala nurse.

Bharpoor was shifted to a local civil hospital where he died in the wee hours of the morning today. A case has been registered.


‘Debt waiver a political gimmick’
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 13
Debt waiver to farmers is a cheap political gimmick and if the government is really serious in bailing out the farmers it should link all agricultural produces to the market price index.

At a meeting here, under the aegis of the federation of arhtiya associations of Punjab, Vijay Kalra and Swaran Singh, president and general secretary, respectively, of the outfit, said commission agents all over the state were up in arms against attempts by the state government to drive a wedge among them and the farmers.

“We enjoy cordial relations with the farmers, but time and again these are threatened by the anti-arhtiya policies guised as pro-farmer ones,” they alleged.

“First it was the decision to allow direct procurement from the mandis, then it was bypassing them in giving cheques to the farmers. Now attempts are being made to waive their pending debts too. We will resist such moves,” they said.

Kalra said the Centre should instead subsidise diesel, fertilisers, seeds and pesticides. If the decision of debt waiver was taken, it would ruin 40,000 arhtiya families in the state.

The association also decried the statement of agriculture minsiter Sharad Pawar wherein he had asked the farmers not to pay the money due to commission agents.


Mann’s memo to Pawar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 13
The SAD(A) today submitted a memorandum to union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to bring to his notice various issues related to agriculture and the sad plight of farmers in the state.

Simranjit Singh Mann, party chief, stated that owing to indifference of the state government in investigating and reporting suicides to the government, the state had not been included in the Rs 4,000-crore package to aid suicide-affected families.

The forcible land acquisitions of farmers have created a class of land colonisers and sharks who are in collusion with politicians. He said the loan waiver offered by the Centre did not offer full support to state agriculturalists.


Eco kits to educate villagers
Vishal Gulati
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 13
In order to sensitise the common man on environmental issues, the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology has developed educational kits under a UNESCO-sponsored project.

The kits will be provided to 31 biodiversity management committees set up in villages of Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur districts. Initially, the committees have been set up in these two districts.

The committees, comprising representatives of the local body and stakeholders whose livelihood depend upon local biological resources, have been constituted by the Punjab Biodiversity Board to conserve biodiversity and ensure its sustainable use.

The kit has resource material, comprising training manual and multilingual 10-minute multimedia CDs, for use by students, farmers, NGOs, government officials, teachers and the public.

“The aim is to educate the masses, especially those living near bio-rich areas, about the importance of flora and fauna and motivate them to take positive action for its conservation,” said Neelima Jerath, joint director (environment) of the council.

“If villagers are educated about the importance of local flora and fauna then the threats to biodiversity can be addressed appropriately,” she said.

India supports about five per cent of the world’s biodiversity. In Punjab, about 5.7 per cent of the area is under forests.

The natural forests are found in the Shivalik range in Ropar, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur districts; Bir forests in Patiala district; and Mand forests in Amritsar and Kapurthala districts.

The major causes of biodiversity loss include the loss of habitat, overuse of natural resources, pollution, changing climate and invasive species.

The population of jackals and vultures has shown a decline in the Bindraban and Nandi Bir areas in Dasuya division.

The existence of the chinkara, flying fox, wolf, clawless otter, leopard cat and the long-tailed tree mouse is doubtful, according to studies conducted by the council.

Similarly, the adjutant stork, flamingo, Himalayan golden eagle, Indian long-billed vulture and the Himalayan griffon have not been sighted in the state since long.


Depleting water table threat to Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 13
“The state of Punjab has a serious ecological and environmental threat if the depleting layer of surface water, underground water and water table is any indicator”, says Rajendra Singh.

He is general secretary of the Tarun Bharat Sangh and the 2001 Magsaysay Award winner for community leadership, more popularly known as the ‘Waterman’ of Rajasthan for reviving traditional check dams and community driven decentralised water management in the state.

With water conservation being his area of work, the present crisis in the country naturally bothers him.

“It’s only market-oriented agriculture that is being practised in the states, be it Punjab, Orissa or any other state for that matter. Water is being over-drafted leading to depletion of water table in all the three layers of the earth”, he says.

Rajendra says the only way agriculture and the state of Punjab can sustain is to practise decentralised water management.

“There is a scope of revival in Punjab. Check dams and gully plugs should be used to recharge downstream.”


High Court
Punjab told to pay Rs 5,000 for denying benefit
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 13
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the State of Punjab to pay Rs 5,000 for declining the grant of benefit of the state government’s Balri Rakshak Yojna to minor daughters of an employee.

The scheme was introduced over three years ago. Issuing the directions in an open court, a Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Justice M.M. Kumar and Justice T.P.S. Mann, also ruled that the benefit was to be given to the girl child or children of couples adopting the terminal method when the age of the youngest child was less than five years at the time of commencement of the scheme.

The judgement is significant as the state government had earlier taken a stand that the scheme came into force with effect from March 3, 2005. The petitioner was not entitled to the benefits as he had undergone a sterilisation operation in September 2002.

In the detailed order, a Bench observed: “We are of the view that such schemes which aim at removing a grave social evil must be given a liberal interpretation, so as to bring under its scope a large number of beneficiaries, rather than to adopt interpretation which restricts the number of beneficiaries….”

The petitioner, Rajinder Kumar, had sought directions to the authorities for the grant of benefit and incentive to him as per the provisions under the Balri Rakshak Yojna for 2004-05. The scheme was aimed at improving the population figures of girls and the male-female ratio.

Allowing the petition, the Bench observed: “The petition succeeds and the petitioner be given a benefit of the scheme. Let a sum of Rs 700 be released to the petitioner in respect of both daughters with effect from March 3, 2005, when the scheme came into operation”.

The Bench also directed that the arrears be paid within two months at the rate of nine per cent interest per annum from the date it was due till the date of payment.

Status report

The Punjab and Haryana High Court today asked the State of Punjab to apprise the court of the government’s stand on auctioning its land where the old sessions courts in Patiala and Ludhiana were located.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Jaswant Singh issued the directions on a public interest litigation filed by Lawyers for Social Action. The petitioner contended that the auction was being conducted in a hurry.

There was no emergency for auctioning the sites for multiplexes, shopping malls and hotels, which already existed in “abundance” in Ludhiana and Patiala. As the auction is fixed for 11 am on March 14, the Bench asked the state counsel to file its status report tomorrow.


Moga silos storage made market yard
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 13
The Punjab government has declared the silos storage at Moga as a market yard. This will enable the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to procure wheat directly at the silos storage rather then first procuring it from the mandis and then transporting it to their storage.

Sources said the notification to this effect was issued on Sunday, which will enable the FCI to begin wheat procurement directly at the facility from the forthcoming season.

Though the silos storage at Moga became operational last year, it was inconvenient for officials to transport the grains from the mandi to the facility.

Under this project, two base depots in Moga and Kaithal have a capacity to store 2 lakh tonnes of grains each.

While the first mother depot at Moga will be linked to three field depots in Chennai, Coimbatore and Bangalore, the one at Kaithal will be linked to Navi Mumbai and Hooghly.

A key feature of this storage is that the entire handling of foodgrains, right from receiving at base depots, cleaning and drying, storage and transportation to field depots, is carried out in bulk form, thus minimising losses. These silos storages are replete with temperature and moisture control.


Urban, indl sector consume more water: farmers
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 13
The farmers who converged here for kisan mela inaugurated by Dr G.S.Kalkat, chairman, Punjab State Farmers Commission at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) today wanted effective and viable alternatives to wheat and paddy crop.

A number of farmers said the theme "Save Environment, Save Punjab" was very good but what was the substitute? The farmers even questioned claims of experts they were consuming most of the water.

They argued consumption in urban and industrial sector was much more than consumed in agricultural sector. They even rued lack of any fresh policy guidelines for giving boost to the agriculture sector.

Progressive farmer and agricultural graduate from Bathinda Satbir Singh Brar said, "We agree water table is falling and may be the excess extraction of water for paddy is one of the reasons but not the only reason. Government should look for other reasons for the drying up the water resources", he said adding in agriculture, water was consumed in soil while in urban and industrial use, water goes down in drains.

Bikar Singh, another farmer from Amritsar district said, "We are ready to diversify but there is hardly any agricultural policy which tells us how to go about it?".

Thousands of farmers from Amritsar, Bathinda, Faridkot, Muktsar, Gurdaspur, Kapurthala and Ropar districts came to attend two-day mega event. Other than Punjab, farmers from neighbouring states of Haryana and Himachal also thronged the venue.

New varieties of guava (arka amulaya), grapes (Punjab purple and flame seedless), pear (Punjab soft and Punjab nector), ber (wallaiti), peach and plum attracted the horticulture farmers. "I have learnt about methods of planting different fruit trees after coming here", said Bihari Lal.

The farmers honoured with Chief Minister's award for excellence in horticulture were Sukhpal Singh Hayer from Ferozepur district and Sukhpal Singh from Bathinda while award for excellence in agriculture went to Sarwan Singh Chandi of Kapurthala district and Baldev Singh Brar from Moga district.


State Crime Graph
Mystery shrouds NFL labourer’s death
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Nangal, March 13
Death of a contract labourer of coal handling plant of National Fertilizers Ltd (NFL) here is enveloped in mystery. Body of Ram Dev labourer was recovered by the police from coal yard of the NFL plant yesterday evening.

Usha wife of deceased labour said he was called on duty at 10 pm on March 10. Since then he did not return home. After waiting for him for day the family reported to the police.

The police found bicycle of Ram Dev parked inside the plant. The police then used the bulldozer at the site to remove the coal. Body of Ram Dev was found dumped five feet under coal heap.

According to sources though Ram Dev was deputed to unload coal from train wagons, his body was found at point where the coal was loaded onto conveyor belt.

According to chief personal manager , NFL, Kuldeep Chand, Ram Dev had no business to go to the spot where his body was recovered. Work at the point where body was recovered is carried out by machines and no labourer is allowed there.

The police has registered a case under Section 174 of the CrPC. SHO Nangal police station Avtar Singh said that relatives of deceased labourer ha stated they did not see any foul play in the case. On the statement of the kin of the deceased a case had been registered, he said.

However, sources said the kin had given the statement declining any foul play as they had been given the impression if investigation into the case prolonged they might be able to draw pension and insurance amount due to the family after death of Ram Dev.

The NFL chief personnel manager, however, said every contract labourer working in the company was covered under the EPF pension scheme and the Workmen Compensation Act. Nobody can deny the benefits to the family of deceased contract labourer.

Sources here criticised the police for reaching an early conclusion in the case just on the statement of the kin of deceased.


2 Akali leaders booked for youth’s death
Tribune News Service

Ajnala, March 13
Pressure exerted by the public and relatives of the deceased, Jindi Masih, today forced the police here to book two persons close to senior Akali leaders of the area.

A large number of people gathered at the local police station and compelled the police to book Hardev Singh and Mindi of Granthian village in this regard.

Earlier the youth had been brought to the police station as a suspect in a theft case. Amrik Singh Waraich, SP, had been deputed as inquiry officer in the case.


Granthi held for rape bid
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 13
The Lehragaga police has arrested a granthi of a gurdwara at Ramgarh Sandhuan village, near Lehragaga.

The granthi had allegedly attempted to rape a five-year-old girl of the village, according to the police.

The Lehragaga SHO said yesterday granthi Sukhdev Singh (55) had taken the girl into the gurdwara the previous day on the pretext of giving her toffees.


Two cops held for bid to rape
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 13
Two cops on duty with an under-trial prisoner admitted to civil hospital here attempted to rape a 17-year-old girl, who was taking care of her sick father, admitted to the male ward, at 2 am today.

Identified as constable Balwinder Singh and SPO Pawan Kumar were arrested this evening. They allegedly confronted the girl in a corridor of the hospital when she had come out of the male ward. Her father was hospitalised after suffering from gastroenteritis.

Both accused were allegedly drunk. According to the complaint lodged by the victim, the cops earlier forced his cousin to sleep in the outer verandah of the hospital arguing the rules did not allow so many attendants of a patient.

They allegedly confronted the girl in the corridor and dragged her inside a toilet. Her aunt and relatives of other patients rescued her after hearing her cries for help.

The cops fled from the hospital. Activists of the All- India Naujawan Sewa Society, who take care of needy patients also reached there, and took care of the badly shaken girl.

Seior police and health officials tried to pacify the agitated patients, relatives. Some nurses scared by the incident had locked themselves in a room.

SS R. K. Jaiswal has suspended them. Jagpreet Singh, a spokesperson of the NGO said the incident had deeply shaken them.

"If a woman taking care of her sick father in a hospital was not safe inside the premises, only god knows the condition on roads outside. It becomes more serious with the accused being policemen, who are supposed to provide security."


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