The HINDU Notes – 17th April 2018 - VISION

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 17th April 2018

📰 Trade treaty on Modi’s agenda

The PM will begin bilateral meetings with his Swedish counterpart today

•The long-pending free trade agreement between the European Union and India, development and ‘innovation’ are on the agenda as Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins official meetings in Stockholm on Tuesday.

•Mr. Modi will begin the day with bilateral meetings with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, and then co-host the first India-Nordic summit along with Sweden, attended by leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway.

Slow pace of agreement

•“I don’t think you can expect Mr. Modi’s visit to change the pace of the [EU-India] negotiations. But I’m sure the Nordic countries will make the case, and it will be noted by the Indian side, and sooner or later the negotiations will continue,” Sweden’s Ambassador to India Klas Molin told The Hindu in an interview ahead of the visit.

•Despite several promises at the summit level, and conversations between trade officials, India and the EU have failed to pick up negotiations on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) as it is known, since they broke down in 2013.

•Last Thursday, the chief negotiators met for technical talks again in Brussels, but no breakthrough has been announced as yet.

Meagre numbers

•Another issue that is being debated is the sequencing of an investment protection treaty, given that India scrapped all its bilateral investment treaties with about 50 countries last year. As a result, trade and investment has been below potential, with India-Sweden trade pegged at a low $1.8 billion last year, down from $2.8 billion in 2011-12. However, Mr. Molin said the number of Swedish companies operating in India had grown in the past three years from 170 to about 190.

•“Would we like a free trade agreement between the EU and India? Yes, of course, and we hope it would include an investment protection segment. But does that mean that companies are not investing here because of the lack of protection? Not really,” Mr. Molin said.

•In a statement on the eve of his departure, Mr. Modi, who landed in Stockholm on Monday evening, said he would also discuss an innovation partnership, “Science and technology, skill development, smart cities, clean energy, digitization and health,” with his Swedish counterpart.

•Mr. Modi will end the day in Stockholm with an address to a crowd of 1100 Indian community members.

📰 Towards a regional reset?

Bold moves to normalise ties with China and Pakistan will enhance India’s standing

•Change often comes unannounced, and the government’s foreign policy moves over the past few months represent an unannounced but profound shift in its thinking about the neighbourhood. This could change the course of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy before the general election next year.

On the mend

•The most obvious in this is what is now being called the “reset” with China. While the trigger for the rapprochement between the two neighbours was the peaceful resolution of the Doklam standoff and Mr. Modi’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Xiamen last year, the outcome of the easing of tensions is being seen in New Delhi’s public postures this year.

•To begin with, the government has taken care not to respond with any heat to reports of the Chinese build-up at Doklam. Construction by the People’s Liberation Army of new bases, bunkers and helipads, as well its troops staying in the erstwhile grazing grounds there through the winter is far from normal activity. Keeping its responses cool, New Delhi has been repeating that the Doklam standoff point is untouched and Chinese construction on their side of the boundary is “not a threat” to India. The government has also gone to some lengths to tone down planned celebrations marking the anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s arrival from Tibet. New Delhi and Beijing have now embarked on a flurry of high-level visits that are meant to lead up to a summit meeting between the two leaders; they may even meet more than once. The shift has given rise to speculation that the two sides are intent on making significant progress in smoothening ties on outstanding issues such as boundary negotiations and also narrowing the trade deficit, an issue discussed during the Chinese Commerce Minister’s visit to India recently.

•This flexibility is also mirrored in the government’s dealings in the South Asian region. Despite several appeals by the Maldivian opposition, and nudges from the U.S., the Modi government decided not to exert hard power in bringing Maldives President Abdulla Yameen around after he declared a state of emergency in the country. Nor did it engage China in a confrontation when Mr. Yameen sought Beijing’s support in this regard. The government remained silent as Male went a step further and held discussions with Pakistan’s Army Chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, on joint patrolling of its Exclusive Economic Zone, an area of operation in the Indian Ocean considered to be India’s domain.

•With Nepal, instead of seeing red when a victorious Prime Minister K.P. Oli made it clear that he would step up engagement with China in infrastructure development, India rolled out the red carpet for him earlier this month. Nor did India raise concern over Nepal’s Constitution which had sparked the confrontation between India and Nepal in 2015-16. There has also been outreach to Bhutan and Bangladesh in recent weeks. Both Bhutan and Bangladesh are to hold elections this year, and with incumbent governments more favourably disposed to New Delhi than their challengers in the opposition, the results will have an impact on India’s influence in these countries as well.

Quiet progress with Pakistan

•One area of foreign policy where few would bet money on a reset, namely Pakistan, has also seen some quiet movement. This year, the government admitted in Parliament for the first time that National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval had met his Pakistani counterpart, Nasser Khan Janjua, as a part of “established channels of communications at various levels” between the two sides in the past few years, post-Pathankot. Officials have confirmed that talks between the two NSAs have also taken place on the sidelines of conferences as well, and quite regularly telephonically. Meanwhile, the resolution of the standoff over the treatment of diplomats in Delhi and Islamabad indicates that neither government has the appetite for escalation at this point.

•All around, it would appear that India’s hard power strategy in the region is being replaced with a more conciliatory one. However, the next steps will be defined not by a quiet or defensive approach to redefining India’s foreign policy in the region, but with a more bold and proactive one. The reset with China will work only if there are transactional dividends for both New Delhi and Beijing, in case the two governments go back to the default antagonism of the past after the summit meetings. Two issues on which both governments can show flexibility are China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and India’s bid for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership.

•On the NSG, China could remove its block to India’s membership by adopting a more inclusive approach within the nuclear export control organisation. Indian membership, which the Modi government seems to have made its objective, will only strengthen the international nuclear regime. Even if withdrawal of China’s objections does not soften the objections of more hardline “non-proliferationists” or Non-Proliferation Treaty-proponents, the goodwill from such a move would propel India-China relations forward.

•On the BRI, if there is political will on both sides, they needn’t look too far for creative solutions around India’s three concerns: on territorial integrity, transparency of projects and their sustainability. The solution to the first is contained in a proposal under consideration — to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan. While it may have not been the outcome discussed, the shift from the CPEC to what could be called PACE or the Pakistan-Afghanistan-China Economic corridor would necessitate a shift away from projects in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Those projects may still be built and funded by China, but then would not constitute a part of the BRI route; as a result, India’s concerns on sovereignty could be dispensed with.

•Meanwhile, several countries, from Europe to Central and East Asia, are now echoing India’s concerns about the environmental and debt trap risks that BRI projects pose. India could take the lead in creating an international template for infrastructure and connectivity proposals, one that would seek to engage China and other donor countries in a structured approach towards debt financing. This would win India goodwill in the neighbourhood too, where every other country (apart from Bhutan) has signed on to the BRI, but has felt alienated by India’s rigid opposition to the initiative.

SAARC re-engagement

•However, the real tipping point in India’s regional reset will come if the government also decides to reconsider its opposition to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit this year, with Pakistan as the host. At a press conference recently, the Foreign Secretary repeated India’s concerns over cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, saying: “Given the current state of play where there is cross-border terrorism and where this is a disruptive force in the region, it is difficult in such circumstances to proceed with [SAARC].” But the argument is beginning to wear thin.

•Afghanistan, which supported India’s move to pull out of the SAARC summit in Islamabad in 2016 following the Uri attacks, is engaging with Pakistan again; Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi signed a seven-point Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity early this month. Sri Lanka and Nepal, both sympathetic to India’s outrage over Uri, are pushing for a summit this year; their sentiments were conveyed publicly by Mr. Oli in Delhi, and by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on his visit to Islamabad in March.

•The trick is for Mr. Modi to attend the summit in Pakistan when some of India’s neighbours are still asking “why”, and not when all of its neighbours begin to ask “why not”. While this may require the government’s much touted “Doval Doctrine” to take a leaf out of the much derided “Gujral Doctrine” book, it may be in keeping with a larger desire for a regional reset, bringing Mr. Modi’s last year in this term of office more in line with his first.

📰 Religion can’t bar a person from rendering own version of it: SC

Court makes observation in Nanak Shah Fakir case

•It is a violation of secularism for a religion to bar a person from writing a book about it or portraying it through a painting, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud orally observed on Monday.

•A religion cannot be adamant that its sole portrayal should be confined to just one “book.” It cannot say that others are not free to sketch or render their version or ideas about the religion. Such a bar is just not enforceable, Justice Chandrachud said.

•The Supreme Court made the observation on a plea by Sikhism’s highest religious bodies to stop the release of the National Award-winning and Censor Board-certified movie Nanak Shah Fakir for having a human characterise Guru Nanak. The film won the National Award for promoting national integrity. Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, who led the Bench, said the film was only a “venerated projection of Guru Nanak in celluloid language.” “Any injunction [on the film] will be slightly stretching the constitutional principles,” the Chief Justice observed. “This is a regional film which has won a National Award for promoting national integrity... it is not an ordinary award,” Chief Justice Misra remarked.

Cinematograph Act

•The Chief Justice said the film “actually makes people aware of the Gurus.” He said the issue in the case was not the essential features of Sikhism, but instead, whether this movie has violated the provisions of the Cinematograph Act.

•At one point, the Chief Justice asked the opinion of senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who was sitting in the front row in his robes. “A religious injunction [against the human portrayal of the Gurus] cannot be converted into a legal injunction... Human beings are portraying the Gurus... So what?” Mr. Jethmalani, who has seen the film, said in court.

•Senior advocate P.S. Patwalia, who is appearing for the Sikh religious bodies, said the Sikhs did not believe in living Gods or idols. He said the film had actors playing the Guru and His family. Mr. Patwalia said the SGPC, a statutory body, had resolved way back in 2003 against movies featuring the Gurus. This resolution had been reiterated time and again over the years. “Under Article 26, Sikhs have the freedom to manage their religious affairs, and every religion has rules,” Mr. Patwalia submitted.

•Senior advocate R.S. Suri, on behalf of the movie’s producers, said his client has great respect for the religious bodies and has incorporated changes suggested by them. He said the film’s message was that a “person is a person first before he or she became a Hindu or a Sikh, etc. People should not be divided over religion. The movie is that.”

•Towards the end of the hearing, Chief Justice Misra suggested whether the actor playing the Guru could desist from taking credit. “Let him not be named, let it be an abstract person...” Chief Justice Misra suggested orally. Finally, the court asked both parties to come up with suggestions to resolve the dispute and posted the case for hearing in May.

📰 Publish and perish?

Making original research mandatory in medical institutions without building research infrastructure is unrealistic

•In June 2017, the Medical Council of India (MCI) made publishing original research in indexed journals a prerequisite for appointments and promotions of teaching faculty in medical colleges. Recruitment, tenure and promotions are often linked to research publications in the developed world but making this mandatory in India is a bad idea.

•Research advances scientific knowledge and saves lives. The pressure to publish motivates clinicians in academic institutions to prioritise research over other professional roles. Research productivity enhances careers and confers scientific recognition and prestige. It provides scientific capital to institutions and reinforces the pressure on faculty to publish or perish.

The consequences

•Many commentators have noted that the emphasis on quantity over quality has led to a flood of poor quality research. In 2005, John Ioannidis in PLoS Medstated that most research findings could be proven to be false. In a 2009 report in The Lancet , Iain Chalmers and Paul Glasziou estimated that around 85% of research funding was being wasted across the entire spectrum of biomedical research. They found that most research publications neither advance scientific knowledge nor have practical clinical applications.

•Research eats into the time that faculty have for clinical care, teaching and mentoring students. This deprives students and patients of the experience of senior faculty. It also contributes to stress and burnout in those left to deal with heavy teaching and clinical workload. The disproportionate emphasis on publications to define success in academic medicine influences the culture of medical education, and the aspirations of students graduating from such institutions.

•In a recent editorial in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics , Sunita Bandewar and others estimate that medical college teachers in India, though lacking funding, infrastructure or protected time, will produce around 15,000 papers a year if they follow MCI requirements. This is a field in which fabrication, falsification, plagiarism and misrepresentation will thrive. The numerous “predatory” journals that India hosts will publish them for a fee and flourish, while health care and academic integrity perish.

•The mission statement of the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017, is “to provide for a medical education system that ensures availability of adequate and high quality medical professionals; that encourages medical professionals to adopt latest medical research in their work and to contribute to research”. What is lacking is a clearly articulated vision of the goals of medical education and the role of research in the context of the challenges and needs in India.

The purpose of medical education

•A 2010 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine envisioned the basic purpose of medical education as caring for the national population, chiefly in primary care and in underserved areas. It ranked medical schools in the U.S. according to a social mission score wherein Stanford (19) and Johns Hopkins (20) ranked among the bottom 20 universities. As India continues “upgrading” district hospitals to medical colleges, and recognising for-profit private medical colleges, the NMC should reflect on whether this “academic” designation will detract from the social mission that medical education should serve.

•In many European countries, notably the U.K., postgraduates and consultants are not required to conduct research, in training or for promotions. They are tested on their ability to interpret research publications critically. This promotes best medical practice and evidence-informed health care. The NMC should develop two streams of medical faculty: a clinical cadre and a research cadre. The clinical cadre of consultants should be appraised on their clinical, teaching, and communication skills; audits conducted to improve services; and continuing professional development credits. The research cadre should be appraised on the quality, integrity, scientific rigour and impact of their research; clinical collaborations; and teaching and guiding research. In order to increase the value of research investments, the NMC should also adopt 17 invaluable research-based recommendations on reducing the “waste in biomedical research”, summarised in a series of papers published in The Lancetin 2014.

•Some academic institutions in India do good research and this should be encouraged. Making original research mandatory now in other institutions, without investing in building research infrastructure and capacity, is ill-conceived, possibly unethical and certainly unrealistic.

📰 India needs 8.1 million jobs a year, says WB

Projects FY19 GDP growth at 7.3%

•India needs to create 8.1 million jobs a year to maintain its employment rate, according to a World Bank report which projected the country’s growth to accelerate to 7.3% in the current financial year. It also projected the growth rate to increase further to 7.5% in the following two years.

•In its twice-a-year South Asia Economic Focus (SAEF) titled ‘Jobless Growth?’, the bank also said India had recovered from the withdrawal of large denomination bank notes in November 2016 and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), rolled out on July 1, 2017.

•“[India’s] growth is expected to accelerate from 6.7% in 2017 to 7.3% in 2018 and to subsequently stabilise supported by a sustained recovery in private investment and private consumption,” it said.

‘Expedite investments’

•The report projected India’s growth to further accelerate to 7.5% in 2019-20 and 2020-21 and said New Delhi should strive to accelerate investments and exports to take advantage of recovery in global growth.

•“Every month, the working age [population] increases by 1.3 million people and India must create 8.1 million jobs a year to maintain its employment rate, which has been declining based on employment data analysed from 2005 to 2015, largely due to women leaving the job market,” it said.

📰 It’s time to replace the UGC Act

The stage is set for a long overdue overhaul of higher education in India

•The Prime Minister’s vision to create 20 institutions of eminence and the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s reforms push have set the stage for an overhaul of higher education in India that is long overdue. The HRD Ministry first saw the passage of the Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017, which will extend greater autonomy to the IIMs. It followed this up with reforms in the rules and regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC), giving autonomy to India’s best-ranked universities and colleges. Subsequently, the Union Cabinet approved the continuation of the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan, which has been working quietly to improve the quality of higher educational institutions in the States through outcome-based grants.

•The time is now ripe for another change: to replace the UGC Act, 1956, with a new law that should respond to the current needs of higher education. Such an Act will take forward the reforms adopted until now, remove the clutter of regulatory agencies under the HRD Ministry’s purview, and pave the way for the emergence of high-quality higher educational institutions.

Categories of universities

•The new Act should establish a higher education regulatory commission (HERC), which will subsume the functions of all the three existing regulatory agencies under the HRD Ministry. Recognising the critical role of States in higher education, it should further establish an advisory council consisting of representatives of all States and the Central government. In addition, it must have as members leading educationists from diverse fields. The council should advise the HERC on all matters, though the final decision-making power needs to be vested in the Commission and its different bodies.

•The UGC recently issued new rules and regulations under which it divided universities into three categories: I, II and III. Category I and II universities were awarded autonomy, with Category I universities receiving greater autonomy than Category II. Under the Act, we propose merging Category I and Category II universities under the recent rules into a single category.

•The HERC should not be in the business of writing curriculums for universities and colleges. Under the proposed Act, Category I universities will be free to write their own curriculums. In addition, they will oversee the curriculums of the colleges affiliated to them. Autonomous colleges will write their own curriculums as well. Category II universities and the colleges affiliated to them will adopt the curriculums of one or more Category I universities. Colleges affiliated to these universities will adopt curriculums of colleges affiliated to Category I colleges or autonomous colleges. There may be courses that exist in Category II universities or in colleges affiliated to them, or courses that these institutions wish to start which do not exist in any of the autonomous universities, colleges affiliated to them, or autonomous colleges. In such cases, the HERC will appoint a small committee of experts from the relevant field to approve or reject the proposed course in a time-bound manner.

Tasks of the Commission

•If this reform is adopted, a major function on which the UGC currently spends a vast amount of time will be eliminated from the responsibilities of the HERC. This will leave the HERC with two major tasks: decisions on the disbursement of funds and accreditation. To fulfil the first function, the HERC should have a finance board. To discharge the second function, it should have an accreditation board. Both these boards should have full autonomy in discharging their functions once the broad policy is formulated at the level of the Commission. Presidents of the boards should be ex-officio members of the Commission.

•The HERC should formulate guidelines for the establishment of new institutions. A new institution should be able to enter on honor basis once it posts in a transparent statement on its website explaining how it has satisfied all the criteria stipulated by the Commission. The HERC should have the power to review whether the entering institution has genuinely fulfilled all the entry criteria, and in cases of deviations from the criteria, to close it down.

•The Commission in cooperation with the accreditation board will have the responsibility to draw up standards and a grading system for colleges and universities. Multiple accreditation agencies will be permitted, with the board serving as the approval authority for them. Universities and colleges may be asked to deposit an accreditation fee in a fund held by the accreditation board from which accreditation agencies can be paid. This will eliminate the need for financial dealings between the accreditation agency and the university or college being reviewed. Matching universities and colleges with the accreditation agency may be done through a random selection by a computer.

•The Commission in cooperation with the finance board will also develop guidelines for funding universities and colleges. Once these are framed, the board will have autonomy in implementing them. The Commission must also formulate policies on tuition fees and teacher salaries. The Act should explicitly provide for independent efforts by institutions to raise funds and even incentivise such efforts by providing matching funds via the finance board.

•The HERC will have a secretariat to maintain a separate grievance and redress office. The office will receive complaints from students, the faculty and university authorities. While routine complaints can be dealt with at the level of this office, those with wider ramifications will be brought to the Commission.

Entry of foreign institutions

•The Act should lay down a clear path for the entry of foreign institutions. The top 200-300 institutions in the world, according to generally accepted rankings, may be allowed entry as Category I institutions. As India has a large young population, foreign institutions will have an incentive to enter the country. In turn, India stands to benefit from the expertise and reputation of these institutions.

•Finally, the Act must also chart a path to integrate teaching and research. The separation between teaching at universities and colleges and research at research councils has not served the cause of either higher education or research well. To be motivated to do research, students must have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and opportunities to interact regularly with scholars actively engaged at the frontiers of research. Conversely, scholars stand to benefit from interacting with young, inquisitive minds. It is critical for this interaction to be brought to the centre of university education.

📰 At home and in exile

We need to adequately plan for internal migration due to climate change

•At the height of the Syrian and Rohingya crises, much of the world’s attention turned to forced displacement and refugees. Both exemplified the typical conditions under which people are forcibly displaced: war, political persecution, economic instability and repression. Still, most of the world’s migration is internal, i.e. within the same country. Among the tens of millions displaced in 2015, 21.3 million were refugees, but 40.8 million were internally displaced. People usually change their homes to improve household income, for marriage or other purposes relating to family.

•With climate change, however, its worsening slow onset effects such as droughts, effects from sea level rise and water shortages will cause many more to leave their homes and move to safer places. Such migration may be a choice in the initial stages; for instance, a young member may travel to a city close by during a drought to increase his or her family’s income. But as the stress becomes more severe, the decision to move may be forced. The gradual rise in sea levels wherein people are compelled to leave their island nations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and become climate exiles is one such ongoing process that will likely increase out-migration over time

Why people move

•In “Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration”, a recent report by the World Bank, it is estimated that in Latin America, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa over 143 million people would be forced to move within borders by 2050 as a result of slow onset climate events alone. In the worst-case scenario, about 40 million of these migrants would be in South Asia, which is the most populous of the regions studied, with a number of climate change effects anticipated.

•The report examines countries in East Africa, South Asia and Central America more closely. Here, it dives deep into the conditions in Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Mexico. Three possible scenarios are described: high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions along with unequal development paths, regarded as the pessimistic reference scenario; an inclusive development scenario with high GHG emissions but development paths that improve access to services for the poor and consider their priorities and unmet needs; and a climate-friendly scenario involving lower GHG emissions but with unequal development.

•South Asia is characterised by rain-fed farmland in large parts of the region. With variability in the monsoons and warmer temperatures, crop failures will lead to migration from the Gangetic plains and from the rice-growing northeast of Bangladesh and the inundated coasts. In the pessimistic scenario, the numbers forced to move internally in South Asia are expected to increase six-fold between 2020 and 2050 and will continue to rise beyond 2050 without appropriate climate action. Even in the inclusive development and climate-friendly scenarios, tens of millions will be forced to migrate. While people normally gravitate to big cities, those along the coast such as Mumbai, Chennai, Chittagong and Dhaka will themselves be vulnerable to storm surges and other effects from sea level rise.

•The poor would be the worst affected by these slow onset events and most of them would migrate out of rural areas to nearby urban settlements, which would be cities and the peri-urban surroundings. Such “hotspots” of in and out migration would be stressed for natural resources, public services and livelihoods. In India, areas between Chennai and Bengaluru have been highlighted in the report along with those around Mexico City, Guatemala City and Nairobi. In India, there are already signs of unplanned and frontier-led growth in peri-urban areas. Past experience shows that planning that ignores the ecosystem services provided by local natural resources such as water tanks and forested areas generates further problems particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable.

•The implications of these internal migrations will be significant for development in the areas and for the lives of these people. Therefore, understanding migration patterns, getting better socioeconomic data on migration and preparing in advance through appropriate planning become critical. The scenarios used in the Bank report could be extended to cover other time periods and could also be more localised. Current climate modelling methods are not accurate at high resolutions for local decision-making, but these are expected to improve over time.

What can be done?

•What kind of policies are needed? Reducing GHG emissions is of utmost urgency, although that seems to be taking place at a pace determined by geopolitical as well as local initiatives. Second, integrating internal migration with ongoing development planning is vital. The peri-urban areas, which are expected to be hot spots, already show problems of water shortage, waste management, nutritional deficiency, limited services such as health and education, and poor infrastructure. Ecosystems, part of the natural resources in peri-urban areas, ought to be protected as “special ecological zones”, so that as urban settlements expand, they don’t eat into ecosystem services. Skill building, job training and other opportunities for education and jobs for locals and migrants would also have to become a focal point. Rights for those who are forced to migrate would be fundamental in these preparations, as studies and experience have shown that ignoring issues of social justice and equity in adaptation can lead to serious governance failure.

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