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March 17, 2018

Different rooms for men and women

Filed under: politics, religion, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 23:26

A few months back, I and my wife were invited to the 1st birthday of our friends son. The family was in India on a visit from the United States to renew their H1B visas. As part of the trip, my friend was celebrating his sons’ first birthday. As I reached the venue, I called my friend for directions; he told me over the phone: “Yaar tu pehle aajaa. Phir gaadi park karke famliy ko laana” (You come first, we will go to the car; I will show you where to park and drop the family).

I hugged him and said “Yaar, bhaabhi kahaan hai? Beta Zaheer kahaan hai?” (Where is your wife? Where is your son, Zaheer).  My friend pointed out: “Yaar, unka entrance is taraf hai. Woh hamaare me ladies alag baithte hai naa.” (Friend, the entrance for ladies and children is elsewhere. In our custom, women sit away from men). I was surprised. I was further dismayed to see that the location had well-lit promenade entrance for men, and a dimly lit side door for women. All women had to wear naqab while outside the separate room. I protested and said: “Yaar, you never do this in the US. Why here?” He had no answer for me.

My driver later asked me: “Sir, why were there only men at the event? And why did madam go to a different location? That entrance was not good sir. Is this a Muslim event?”. I had no answer for him.

In parts of Hyderabad, several marriage/party halls have separate sections for men and women. They advertise this feature openly. Everyone in Hyderabad knows that in Muslim events, women rarely come out. Even if they do, they sit in a different place.  Invariably, there could be a difference in the level of service offered in these two different assemblies.

In an article written by Mr Harsh Mander,  he says: “…speakers lament the political consensus across the spectrum that Muslims are a political liability”. Mr Mander says that all Muslims are abandoned. But are they? Indian society is one of the most pluralistic. It has the third largest Muslim population in the world [Source]. The number of Muslims in India can almost come close to the Muslim population of all the Middle East countries added together. India is the only secular democracy with such a wide variety of religions in significant numbers. True, countries like the US and France have secular constitutions, but their individual minorities are less than 1% of the population.

Modern society has identified many ways of grouping people: religious, ethnic, economic etc. Society MUST create secular framework to accommodate a common interest. But each group also MUST accommodate the requirements of secular society.

Mr Mander, the real sad part is this:

A entire community is not allowed to celebrate cultural events with both sexes in a single room. Leaders of that community openly support many other glaring discriminations in plain sight. And no political party has the courage to suggest that this needs to change. Every religion will try its best to interfere in the public life of an individual. And every Govt must deny that to every religion. It is dangerous for political parties to be partial and allow one or the other religion to take over public life. Till this partiality continues, we will have a Surya and a Sayyed who cannot share a common space. Till this partiality continues, we will have vote banks governing in the name of democracy.

No religious group is perfect. Hindu society is trying very hard to remove its own share of drawbacks. We are fighting female infanticide, dowry, discriminatory religious practices, and Inshaallah we will win against these ills.

But in the name of Ram, or maybe the Indian constitution,  will the Muslims accept reform? Will they say that we do not need to marry four women, we do not need a separate MPLB (Muslim Personal Law Board), or at the very least do not need different sections in our marriage halls? Often times, burqa is defended saying that it empowers/protects women. I wonder what empowerment or protection is obtained by having separate areas in an event like birthday, marriage, engagement, eid, or for that matter in a mosque?

No group will leave its familiar customs and practices easily. They will use every rule and ruse to ensure that status quo continues to be maintained. Every group has to be coerced into following the common minimum. The Congress is completely complicit in ensuring that Muslims were never asked to introspect. Ergo, Muslims were never able to reform. In doing so, the Congress has ensured that these Minorities always stand out as a different group.

I dont know if the BJP will be any better. The BJP will cause more harm if it pushes the appeasement pendulum to the other side. Sections of the BJP are showing signs of rabble rousing. Secularism is a process of ensuring everyone reaches a common ground, while retaining their independence. It is a complex phenomena. Political parties have to raise to the occasion and be bi-partisan.

The full comment by Harsh Mander:

Over the past months, I have been urged to join a series of meetings called by Muslim leaders and youth. The mood is always sombre, submerged in despair. In these meetings, speakers lament the political consensus across the spectrum that Muslims are a political liability. Political parties are unwilling to field Muslim candidates, to speak of issues of violence and discrimination that afflict large Muslim populations, even to openly seek Muslim votes. In one of these meetings, a prominent Dalit leader said, “By all means come in large numbers to our rallies. But don’t come with your skullcaps and burkas.”

This article says that Darul Uloom Deoband has instructed Madrassas to not accept Govt grants because they do not want to follow Govt regulations. The Darul calls this “Govt interference”. Is this a right step for the unity and secularism of our country? To quote the article:

We have our own disciplinary codes, uniforms as well as syllabus to follow and don’t want the government interfering in these matters. We don’t want the government to ask us for details of daily attendance of students and teachers and other such things.


April 27, 2016

Three politicians in a Bombay local train

Filed under: bombay, democracy, governance, India, jaago rey, politics — neosurya @ 17:42

Three politicians got into a fast local as it was pulling out of Kalyan headed towards CST: Left, right, and Congressi.
Stop 1. Kalyan: Hardly any people sitting on the seats, mostly empty train.
Left:   This is an abomination. In the name of development, the Govt has stolen land from farmers to build useless trains.
Right:    Can we sell the empty seats to Reliance?
Congressi: All hail Indira. The train should stop at minority railway stations like Thakurli, Diwa etc.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
Stop 2. Thane: All seats had been taken.
Left: What about the poor farmers outside Bombay? These trains have never created any benefit for the poor people outside Bombay.
Right: Can we sell the standing place to Reliance?
Congressi: All hail Rajeev. What do you mean the train is fast? How do the other stations develop?
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
Stop 3. Ghatkopar: There are four people sitting on each bench that is meant for three. More than 50% of the standing space has been taken up.
Left: This is a class struggle !!! How can the trains have seats for only three people when clearly the public demand is for four seats.
Right: Can we remove the seats completely, and sell them to Adani?
Congressi: All hail Sonia. We have to protect the interests of minorities in Ghatkopar. They rarely get a window seat. There must be reservation and special law for all stations after Thane.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
Stop4. Kurla: All the standing space is taken up.
Left: This is clearly the time for revolution !!! Farmers and villagers have spilled their blood for the train, now they have no space left.
Right: This train is not serving the purpose. Let us invite consultants from private sector to build a new train.
Congressi: All hail Rahul. Rahul baba will come to supervise the conditions of trains. He will connect with the youth and the marginalized.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
Stop 5. Dadar: There is no place in the compartment. People hanging for dear life from outside the train.
Left: We have to open the eyes of the world to see this oppression !!! We will write editorials and documentaries about the unjust Indian society, culture and history that has lead to this sad state of affiars.
Right: We will build a bullet train from Kalyan to CST, covering this distance in 10 minutes. There will be no crowds, and it will not stop at any of the pesky stations on the way. It will cost 6000 crores which will be repaid over the next 50 years.
Congressi: We have convened a national convention that has recommended common minimum seat demand. Accordingly, we will have a high power commission that will commission separate trains for each station. There will be reservations for each station on each train. There will be separate ticket collectors for passengers from each station.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?


Last stop. Between Dadar and CST: There is a blast in one of the compartment.
Left: This violence is the expression of people supressed by fascist, regressive policies. We stand in solidarity.
Right: Attack Pakistan. Enter Burma.
Congressi: We realize your pain. Gandhi family also made a huge sacrifice for the nation.
Common man: Will I get to work and return to my family after work? Can someone please kill these three politicians?


Distance between Kalyan and CST is about 70 Kms. There are about 25 stations between Kalyan and CST. The fast local trains in Bombay stop at about 6 of them. Slow trains stop at all stations. People from all religions and walks of life travel in complete peace and harmony. A banker rubs shoulders with a dabbawala, and a student all in the same compartment. There are rarely any fights, and certainly not for seats.

Kanhaiya Kumar spoke about “fights” for seats in the local trains of Bombay. I grew up in the lovely city, went to school and college. I travelled in these trains and BEST buses for a major part. Politicians like Kanhaiya can only fabricate divisive issues. It is a sad state of affairs that the common man gets crushed between these selfish interests.The media routinely replay words from these politicians. Who will replay the true emotions of people?

December 12, 2014

Govt takes pro-active measures against conversions: CEBI

Filed under: governance, law, politics, religion — Tags: , — neosurya @ 06:42

The Govt is planning to start a CEBI – Conversions and Exchanges Board of India. This board will be along the lines of the world famous SEBI and be responsible for catching all the Harshad Mehta’s of the conversion world. Given the potential growth of this market in recent years, several unscrupulous players have entered the market [1][2][3][4]. Regulation and control of this area has assumed significant importance.

The initial mandate of this board would be:

  1. Arrive at a comprehensive vocabulary: Terms like “conversion”, “religion”, “religiousness”, “coercion” are getting thrown about in this area without any recourse to exact definitions. For instance, If someone is converted for a few hours or a few days, does that count? What would happen if someone wants to pray in institutions belonging to two different divinities? Can religiousness be measured in decimal scale (Can someone be 0.25 Christian, 0.45 Hindu, and 0.3 Parsi for example)? Exact specifications for all these would be arrived at to allow for bureaucratic and legal uniformity.
  2. A religion-line: Just like poverty line, a religion line shall be defined. All households which are above this religion-line would be allowed to practice any religion they wish to practice. Ergo, They can change religions as many times as possible, or belong to many religions at any one point of time. Naturally, this will be based to a large extent on economic power. In any case, the poor do not have lives or decision making capacity of their own. They can be easy swayed like cattle, and hence have to be shepherded. They have to be organized, measured and guided. They also need to be controlled, for they may suddenly choose to exercise independent thought.
  3. Recommend Laws: Laws like the “Orissa Freedom of Religion Act” shall be strengthened. More of them shall be created to add teeth to the legal system. Fast track courts shall be established to expedite processing of these cases. Of course, these laws have to pass through the parliament. Each state may also choose to alter the law as it may suitably deem for its purposes.


The above is a hoax post, a joke, satire.



October 26, 2010

India After Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha

Filed under: book, election, India, politics, social change — Tags: , , — neosurya @ 06:32

A must read for anyone remotely interested in Indian democracy. Guha does not go left, right, center, or anywhere else except trudge along the path of Indian democracy from 1947 all the way up-to 2000 (The date the book was published). Where the events demanded, he also went a little bit before 1947, for example to explain how the Lahore convention of the Congress was where the Muslim League was born. The references make for more interesting reading, but I followed up only a few of them.

Some reviewers say that the book should have had some analysis of events. But this book was meant to have a historical or journalistic flavor, and getting into an analysis mode is incredibly academic in nature. Most books out there wax eloquent on their preferred political leanings. Once Indian historians start writing an analysis, they end up making holier-than-thou statements. The reader is hopelessly lead into a particular view point, and the event itself is lost in the melee. Very few tell the story as it happened, and in words that the common man can understand. Guha rises up to the occasion in this book.

The book reads fast, and I could not put it down once I had picked it up. This may not be the book for individuals seasoned in contemporary Indian history. They may already be familiar with most its contents. However, this would be the book I shall recommend my daughter to read instead of the history textbooks that muddle our brain cells in school.

September 23, 2010

The Commonwealth dRain…

Filed under: common man, democracy, India, politics, social change — Tags: , — neosurya @ 09:56

A few days down the line, we would have headlines that say – India is largest Gold medal winner at the commonwealth games. Guess why??? None of the leading athletes from other countries would attend, that is why. Several top athletes have pulled out of the games – some citing health reasons, some security, and still others – “personal causes”. These are but euphemisms to hide the true cause: (i) Unscrupulous contractors have used this event as a money making mechanism. True, media may have blown some of the problems, but we have to admit that there is no guarantee of good construction. The main Stadium, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium had been constructed in 1982. Most of the costs have been toward renovation. Renovation can be expensive, but not Rs 70,000 crores. (ii) Delhi has become an unplanned mess, with the local populace considering the event not as something to be proud of, but as another Government activity that they have to bear. This event could have been held at a place like Bhopal, or Nagpur, or some other town that needed infrastructure. (iii) There is likely to be little audience for the event. Maybe the Govt. could bring in truck loads of people promising them biriyani and a packet of hoonch like they do for the elections. Some of these “common” people could even participate in a game or two – maybe high jump, to leave the stadia and run from the boredom. (iv) Organizing machinery that exudes absolutely no confidence to attendees [1].

Civil servants in charge of the event may be able to pull off a magic trick or two. But people of calibre, like top athletes rarely not put their trust in magic tricks. They trust planning and strategy. The only people adopting strategy seem to be contractors who have come up with methods to fleece tax payers. About Rs 70,000 seems to have been spent on the games [1, 2], while the original budget seems to have been for Rs 11,494 crores [1]. The games had been awarded seven years ago[1, 2]; there was no need to have delayed construction for so long. Even the smallest component could have been finished well in advance.

Like in a dark, paradoxical comedy, a saving grace could be that  Dilli has floods, and the Yamuna is a meter above the flood level. The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium is about 2 Kms from the Yamuna (View map here). It is also the stadium that would host the commonwealth games, if they happen that is. Officials behind the commonwealth games can now blame a likely sham on the Gods.

A list of athletes who pulled out: Australia: Stephanie Rice, Dani Samuels. Kenya: David Rudisha, Edwin Soi, Asbel Kiprop, Linet Masai. Jamaica: Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell. England: Andy Murray, Lisa Dobriskey [1, 2]. Some of these withdrawals are due to injuries.

October 15, 2009

Feels wierd…

Bt Brijal was given an approval for commercial cultivation in India [1, 2, 3].I did my bit by sending a fax about this, and am consciously trying to do my bit by doing other things, and writing about them.Interestingly, the Govt body employed to be in charge of genetic products has been called “Genetic Engineering Approval Committee”. It’s URL has a one line explanation about its’ role. I am curious as to why this body is called the “approval committee” as opposed to “regulatory committee” or something else. Guess the underlying assumption is that somehow GE is already going to be approved and, once it is approved there would be little there to be regulated.  Incidentally, all the safety reports related to Bt Brinjal were from the company Mahyco itself (URL).

But this is not the only thing I am feeling wierd about…

China is pretty pissed that our PM visited Arunachal Pradesh [1,2], and our media did give a whimper of response [1]. China had sometime back also started issuing visas to J&K/Arunachal residents on a piece of paper, as opposed to stamping them on the Indian passport [1]. China’s attitude reminds me of a distant cousin who used to resort to cheap tricks in order to make me look bad in front of parents.

I believe that India can be very strong when it comes to things like these. But my belief aint good enough, a billion other folks need to share the belief. Ahem… well, a few among the billions would be OK.

September 17, 2009

India’s security council seat was given up.

Filed under: India, politics, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 07:24

Just learnt that India was once offered a  seat in the UN Security Council way back in 1955, but rejected it. There may have been a lot of arm-twisting by existing powers at that time for us to give it up. But even then. giving it up was a sad strategic decision. I read about it in the Business Line, in an article titled “UN reforms — a fading mirage?” on Sept 16th 2009, Full article URL; excerpt below:

Ironically, around 1955, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was offered the disputed Chinese Permanent Security Council seat by the US to keep out the People’s Republic of China, and he also was sounded out by the USSR Prime Minister, Nikolai Bulganin, to allow China to take this seat while giving India a sixth permanent seat in the Security Council. Nehru rejected this offer in deference to China. History may have been different if this offer had been subjected to serious negotiations. Now, 54 years later, we are struggling for this seat.

Update on October 26 2009:

It appears that all was not so bad. I did think that there must have been some big time arm twisting. And, the Sept 16th 2009 article in Business line seems to be doing bad reporting. There are other takes on Nehru’ stance; Excerpt from an article in the Hindu:

Nehru showed sound judgment in rejecting it and in refusing to walk into the trap. It would have earned India the lasting hostility of China, contempt of the nations of the Third World and of the United States too, conceited, albeit, with perfect discretion; and eventually, a resounding snub from the Soviet Union. India would not, indeed could not, have got the seat; only the odium for immaturity and opportunism.


“Regarding your suggestion about the four power conference we would take appropriate action. While we are discussing the general international situation and reducing tension, we propose suggesting at a later stage India’s inclusion as the sixth member of the Security Council.

JN: Perhaps Bulganin knows that some people in USA have suggested that India should replace China in the Security Council. This is to create trouble between us and China. We are, of course, wholly opposed to it. Further, we are opposed to pushing ourselves forward to occupy certain positions because that may itself create difficulties and India might itself become a subject to controversy. If India is to be admitted to the Security Council, it raises the question of the revision of the Charter of the U.N. We feel that this should not be done till the question of China’s admission and possibly of others is first solved. I feel that we should first concentrate on getting China admitted. What is Bulganin’s opinion about the revision of the Charter? In our opinion this does not seem to be an appropriate time for it.

Bulganin: We proposed the question of India’s membership of the Security Council to get your views, but agree that this is not the time for it and it will have to wait for the right moment later on. We also agree that things should be taken one by one (page 231; emphasis added, throughout).

Bulganin did not make an “offer”. He threw a feeler to test India. He himself recognised that “this is not the time for it”. Had Nehru jumped at the bait, he would have courted certain disappointment before long.

Later, in a Note on his tour of the USSR and other countries, dated August 1, 1955, Nehru wrote: “Informally, suggestions have been made by the United States that China should be taken into the United Nations but not in the Security Council and that India should take her place in the Security Council. We cannot of course accept this as it means falling out with China and it would be very unfair for a great country like China not to be in the Security Council. We have, therefore, made it clear to those who suggested this that we cannot agree to this suggestion. We have even gone a little further and said that India is not anxious to enter the Security Council at this stage, even though as a great country she ought to be there. The first step to be taken is for China to take her rightful place and then the question of India might be considered separately” (page 303).

May 20, 2009

News summary May 19 2009

Filed under: India, indian elections, politics — neosurya @ 00:23

PG-hopper busted for serial thefts
TOI Bangalore Edition, page 1

Ms Devi Mahalakshmi, apparently a “God-fearing girl” stole about half a KG of gold and other assorted stuff from her roomies. She is also a software engineer. “God fearing” and “software engineer”, and to top it all off, a “girl”. She sure has managed to break a lot of stereotypes. What I wonder is, how nicely these stereotypes are broken everywhere else.

Big loss of face for 353 candidates
TOI Bangalore Edition, page 4

The whole of page 4 is an analysis of the current elections. Apparently, some members from major parties also lost their deposits.
Of the 428 candidates who contested for the 28 Lok Sabha seats of Karnataka, 353 lost their deposits.

The BJP has done very well in the Karnataka area.

Money on English
TOI Bangalore Edition, editorial

It is all about English; it is related to the Mulayam Singh manifesto that was anti-English and anti-computers [1]. Apparently, the politician who claims that computers take away employment sends his kids to English schools. I am positive they also do computers and own a few playstations, nintendos and the like at their official residence. Mulayam also has an online profile on UP Govts website.

Sometime back, there was the story of Raj Thackeray going against English, Hindi, and basically everything and anything that they could lay their hands on. Incidentally, his people vandalized Bombay Scottish, for having Bombay instead of Mumbai in its’ name [1, 2]. Raj Thackeray sent his kids to, where else, Bombay Scottish.

May 13, 2009

Zee TV Telugu little champs – goodness in children

Filed under: personal, politics, zee tv telugu little champs — neosurya @ 23:21

My better half makes me watch “Little Champs” on Zee Telugu TV every Wed and Thurs night. I had bought a TV tuner card in lieu of a tv believing that the absence of a TV would lead to more sensible evenings. If at all, the tuner would be used mostly to see news, or some rare tele-event. Turns out it was wishful thinking :) .

Anyhow, this post is about something very different, not the presence of a TV, or the lack of it. This Little Champs is a competition where children sing songs and are rated by a panel of judges/composers, and by viewer SMSes. From among 24 students, one is removed from the race each week, and as of today, there are four girls – Ramya, Sindhura, Meghana, Anjali Nikhila. The girls age from about 6 to 11 (Yes, SIX!!!). At the end of their song, the participants have to place a vote request , i.e. ask the viewers to vote for themselves. Today, as the first girl took the stage to sing her song, the anchor asked her if she had asked all of their friends to vote. She cheerfully and confidently said that all her friends would vote. And, she added that they would vote not just for her, but for all the four contestants. All the girls gave a similar reply. Now these girls have competed for about a year. After such a stiff competition, one would think that the instinct to compete would be paramount. It is bizzare to think that the girls would hope that all four of them should win. Either the participants have been trained to “stage” such comments, or they are truly very nicely brought up children. An optimist like me would prefer to believe the latter.

But this is kalyug. Bro killing bro, Nigga killing nigga, White killing white, White killing nigga (OMG), Nigga killing white (Happens, swalpa adjust madi), Office politics, Political politics, and ad infinitum. Hence life sucks. It must certainly be the former, the girls are saying such things to sound “nice”. Lofty, utopian ideals cannot surely exist here. Not everyone can win. Some must lose, life is such. Life sucks!!! Which makes me think, what does life suck??? If it does suck, there has to be something at the other end of the straw. I shud really be sleeping now.

BTW, my request that I be excused from watching this contest and that better half continue to watch it did not work. I <have to> enjoy the family time. :)

An interesting forward; original article here:

Customers who have booked flats in New Town Heights, the project being developed by the country’s largest real estate developer DLF Ltd, at Gurgaon, near Delhi, are planning to take the Gandhigiri route to show their “disappointment” with the execution of the project. Around 200-300 of them are planning to gather at DLF’s office to give out roses along with their exit letters to the company.

May 1, 2009

Forms of Democracy

Filed under: democracy, India, politics — neosurya @ 02:07

Democracy was introduced in several of our history or civics books as “Government for the people, of the people, and by the people”. The statement came from Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. Most arm-chair politicians in India (The middle class has scores of them) have passed judgment that democracy has ceased to serve its intended purpose. But has it? Is there nothing we can do to improve upon what we have? There are several variants of democracy; some are practiced, and some are in theory (These subjects are poorly studied *). We follow a parliamentary democracy with first past the post system of elections. A few salient repercussions of our form of democracy, and how we could improve:

  1. A representative is elected by a very large population of people; it is unrealistic that the representative can directly interact with even a small percentage of people that voted for him. For a population of a billion people, we have 543 representatives [1, 2].
  2. It is difficult to dismiss or replace the representative. I think the only legal option for people to demand that an Lok Sabha MP step down is to file a Public Interest Litigation. The executive (Rajya Sabha / President) positively does not have any powers to recommend that an Lok Sabha MP should be fired. The speaker can suspend a Lok Sabha MP (Rule 374A). The only conclusive, and fast way is for an MP to resign voluntarily. In such a scenario, our rules specify that another MP may be delegated the functions of a resigning MP, or a request would be sent to the election commission to organize bye-elections. Bye-elections are often expensive [1]. A Rajya Sabha MP may be disqualified if he changes his political affiliations after getting the seat; he may not even vote against his party opinion.

The US has a presidential system, and you can read about the differences with a parliamentary system here. A couple of interesting democracies are:

Direct Democracy [1]: This is a system where all citizen directly participate in the decision process for their community. A partial version of this is present in the California Government.

Liquid Democracy [1, 2]: A concept where people can transfer their votes to each other. For example, 100 people decide to give their votes to X. Then X will have 101 votes (100 votes given by others plus his own vote). X can also transfer these 101 votes to another person. Further, a voter can take his vote back at any time. Variations of liquid democracy have the ability to solve problem 1 given above, and to a certain extent even 2.

Primaries among political parties: Political parties hold internal elections to determine who their candidates for a particular constituency should be. LokSatta is one such party in India; when two or more LokSatta members wish to contest elections from a single seat, an election is held by the party in that constituency, and the member who gets most votes is taken as the candidate [Example: 1, 2].  In the US, primaries are held slightly differently; only members of the political party get to vote during the primaries. This is a simplistic explanation though, there are rules like for example senior members of the democratic party having more weight [1].

One model is better than the other in certain aspects, and some could be very useful to enhance the system in India. But until the electorate get interested in their society, no system would help.

*The formal study of politics is limited to humanities or social sciences.The low market value of these studies is stark in India, but it is equally true elsewhere. Typical US University budgets allotted to areas like the humanities are lousy; humanities cannot be “sold” unlike an ipod and this makes it a less attractive magnet for funding.

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