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Gujarat India News

Gujarat polls in two phases, counting on Dec 8

In the first phase, polling will be held for 89 seats while the second phase will see voting for 93 seats…reports Asian Lite News

The Gujarat Assembly polls will be held in two phases on December 1 and 5, the Election Commission announced here on Thursday.

The counting of votes will be taken up on December 8, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said.

In the first phase, polling will be held for 89 seats while the second phase will see voting for 93 seats.

Gujarat has a strong 4,90,89,765 electorate, which includes 2,53,36,610 males and 2,37,51,738 females.

The term of the 182-member state Assembly ends on February 18, 2023. After the poll dates were announced, the Model Code of Conduct came into force in the state.

Earlier, the poll panel had announced the dates for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls.

Election in Himachal Pradesh will be held in a single phase on November 12 and the counting of votes will be taken up on December 8.

In the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls too, elections were held in two phases, and the BJP had formed the government.

EC’s answers to questions of neutrality

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar, reacting to questions being raised on the autonomous status of the Election Commission, said that “actions speak louder than words”.

The remarks were made by the CEC after the Congress party, following the “delay” in the announcement of dates for Gujarat Assembly polls, took a jibe at the EC by tweeting that the poll body was an autonomous institution and conducted fair elections.

Responding to queries regarding the “delay” in the announcement, Kumar said that the dates are decided considering the time and geographical conditions. The body has announced the dates 110 days before the assembly is supposed to end, he added.

Kumar added that those who raised questions on EVMs, “realised their fault” once the results came out in their favour.

The CEC also expressed condolences to the victims of Gujarat’s Morbi tragedy and their families.

BJP National President J.P. Nadda on the other hand, welcomed the announcement and claimed that the party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modia will form a “double-engine” government in Gujarat, with a huge majority.

In a tweet, he added that the BJP would work with commitment to fulfill the aspirations of the people for the next five years.

Gujarat is considered the toughest stronghold of the BJP and the saffron party has been winning the state elections there since 1995.

After Modi came to Delhi as Prime Minister in 2014, the BJP had succeeded in forming the government in the state in 2017, but its tally in the Assembly fall significantly.

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Gujarat India News

World leaders offer condolences to Morbi bridge collapse

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter soon after, and informed that he had spoken with Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, and has called for “urgent mobilisation” of teams…reports Asian Lite News

The cable suspension bridge collapse in Gujarat’s Morbi district that has so far taken the lives of more than 130 people, even as rescue operations continue in search of more trapped individuals, have drawn the attention of prominent world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

In an official statement, Putin conveyed his condolences over the tragic incident to his Indian counterpart Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Dear Ms President, dear Mr Prime Minister, please accept my heartfelt condolences over the tragic bridge collapse in the state of Gujarat,” the message by the Russian president read.

Putin also conveyed his words of sympathy and support to the families and friends of the victims, and “wished all those injured a speedy recovery”, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported on Monday.

Besides Putin, Nepal’s Prime Minister Deuba took to Twitter to express his grief over the loss of “precious lives”, saying he is “deeply saddened” by the tragic incident of bridge collapse in Morbi.

“We extend heartfelt condolences to the Government and people of India on the loss of precious lives. Our thoughts & prayers are with the bereaved families,” his post on the micro-blogging site read.

British high commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, also took to the social media site to condole the loss of lives. “Terrible, shocking news from #Gujarat,” he wrote along with a BBC report on the collapse incident.

Singapore’s high commissioner to India, Simon Wong, also joined Ellis. “Deeply saddened by the loss of many lives due to the collapse of the cable bridge in Morbi, Gujarat. Our thoughts and deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased and the injured. Our hearts are with the people of Gujarat,” he tweeted.

The collapse occurred on Sunday evening when 400-500 people were walking on the bridge over Machchuu river, which was thrice its capacity. In split seconds, the bridge came crashing down, plunging more than 200 people – mainly women, children and elderly – into the water body. Local fisherman present at the site jumped to the rescue but faced challenges due to fading daylight.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter soon after, and informed that he had spoken with Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, and has called for “urgent mobilisation” of teams. Initially the death toll was confirmed at 40, but after an overnight relief work, more bodies were fished out of the bed of Machchuu river, taking the death toll to over 130.

Multiple teams of the NDRF, SDRF, Indian Army, IAF, Navy, Coast Guard, local administration and fire department continue with their search and rescue operation. Earlier in the day, NDRF commandant VVN Prasanna Kumar told news agency ANI that their divers are facing visibility issues underwater due to the river water being muddy. He suspected more bodies could be trapped under the floor of the collapsed bridge.

The British-era bridge opened for public on October 26 on Gujarati New Year after undergoing renovation for six months. Morbi chief security officer Sandeep Singh Jhala said that Oreva – the company that looked after the bridge’s operation and maintenance – was probably not issued a fitness certificate to reopen it. Gujarat home minister Harsh Sanghavi said a five-member committee has been formed to look into the lapses behind the renovation. A criminal case has also been registered in the matter.

Prime Minister to visit Morbi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Tuesday visit Morbi in Gujarat where 134 people were killed after a suspension bridge collapsed into the Machchhu river.

Modi, who is on a visit to Gujarat ahead of the state Assembly polls due this year-end, on Monday paid tributes to those who died in Sunday’s bridge collapse.

The Gujarat Chief Minister’s Office announced that Modi would visit Morbi on Tuesday afternoon.

The PM will also visit Jambughoda in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district to launch various developmental projects, government officials said, adding that he will also address people at the venue.

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Gujarat India News

Govt gives nod to container terminal project in Gujarat

The project will cater to the future growth in Container Cargo traffic. From 2025, a net gap of 1.88 Million TEUs shall be available…reports Asian Lite News

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved development of a Container Terminal at Tuna-Tekra, Deendayal Port at an estimated cost of Rs 4,243.64 crore.

The project will come up under Build, Operate & Transfer (BOT) basis under public-private-partnership (PPP) mode that will be given out through the international competitive bidding process.

In addition, an investment of Rs 296.20 crore will also be made for common user facilities which will be on the part of the Concessioning Authority toward development of common user facilities.

In addition to increasing the business potential of Kandla, the project will boost the economy and generate employment.

The project will cater to the future growth in Container Cargo traffic. From 2025, a net gap of 1.88 Million TEUs shall be available.

The Concessionaire will be responsible for the design, engineering, financing, procurement, implementation commissioning, operation, management and maintenance of the Project under the Concession Agreement to be executed by the Concessionaire (BOT Operator) and the Concession Authority (Deendayal Port Authority) for a period of 30 years for handling designated cargos.

Deendayal Port (earlier known as Kandla port) is one of the twelve Major Ports in India and is located on the West Coast of India, in the Gulf of Kutch in the State of Gujarat.  Deendayal Port primarily services northern India including Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Initially, the Project will cater 14m draught vessels of 6000 TEUs and accordingly, common Access Channel will be dredged & maintained by the Concessioning Authority at 15.50m to navigate container vessels of 14m draught all round the clock.  During the concession period, the Concessionaire will have liberty to handle vessels up to 18m draught by deepening/widening its approach channel, berth pocket and turning circle.

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Gujarat India News News

Gujarat fails to build required number of classrooms

The Gujarat education department was able to construct only 14 per cent of the required 19,128 classrooms in a span of two years, the state Assembly was informed on Monday…reports Asian Lite News



The state government presented the information in the House in response to series of questions asked during the ongoing budget session.

Education Minister Jitu Vaghani informed the House that against the requirement of 19,128 classrooms in various primary schools, the state government was able to build only 2,714 during the last two years.

The opposition party Congress said that the requirement of classrooms in the state’s primary schools has constantly been on the rise. In 2015, a total of 8,388 class deficit was reported where as in 2018, the requirement shot up to 16,008 whereas in 2021, a total of 18,537 classroom requirement of classrooms were reported.

“In the year 2022, a total of 19,128 classrooms requirement was reported. In two years, the government has constructed 2,714 classrooms for the primary section of the government schools, asserted the education minister.

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The minister further informed that not a single classroom was constructed in Dangs, Narmada and Tapi districts the same period, against the requirement of 154, 183 and 162 respectively. Four classrooms were constructed in Gir-Somnath in 2019-20, against the requirement of 188 classrooms.

The highest number of classroom deficit is been reported in a Dahod district where classroom deficit is 1,677 against which only 66 classrooms have been constructed during the same time.

Similarly, against a series of questions put up by the Congress legislators for facilities like electricity, compound walls in primary schools, the education minister informed the house that a total of 23 schools were devoid of power supply and 5,439 government primary schools and 272 private primary schools were devoid of compound walls, across the state.

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Gujarat India News

Eminent persons oppose Modi’s Sabarmati Ashram redevelopment project

“There will be new museums, an amphitheater, VIP lounge, shops, food court among other things in the newly created ‘world class’ memorial as per the newspaper reports…reports Asian Lite News.

Around 130 eminent personalities from various segments of the country, opposing the Centre and Gujarat government’s joint plan to redevelop Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad through the Rs 1,200-crore ‘Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project’, has criticised the move.

They came out with a statement on Wednesday, saying that the proposed project will “severely compromise simplicity and sanctity” of the present-day ashram and can be envisioned at best as “Gandhi Theme Park” and at worst “a second assassination.”

Prayer at Sabarmati Ashram on 30 January 2019 (Wikipedia)

The around 130 eminent personalities led by the president of Gujarat Sahitya Parishad and noted Gujarati writer Prakash Shah, historians Rajmohan Gandhi and Ramchandra Guha, musician T.M. Krishna, retired High Court Judge A.P. Shah, Admiral (Retd) Laxminarayan Ramdas, former IAS officer Sharad Behar, former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, senior lawyer Anand Grover and activists Harsh Mander and many other activists, writers, Gandhians and former IAS and IPS officers have opposed the Union government’s plan to ‘develop’ the historic Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, claiming that it will harm its sanctity.

“It was an attempt to take over Gandhian institutions”, they said in the statement.

The signatories also include social activists Shabnam Hashmi, Yogendra Yadav, Aruna Roy, Teesta Setalvad, writer and cultural activist G.N. Devy, filmmaker Anand Patvardhan, writer Ram Punyani and former IAS, artist and poet Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, journalist Kumar Ketkar, writer P. Sainath, among others.

The joint statement is titled as ‘Prevent Government takeover of Gandhian Institutions’.

“The present government is all set to ‘reclaim’ the ‘visual wholesomeness, tranquility and uncluttered environment of 1949’ and make it a ‘world-class’ tourist destination spread over 54 acres. It has announced a budget of Rs 1,200 crore for Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project,” it says.

Charkha kept at Gandhi Ashram (Wikipedia)

“We must collectively oppose any government takeover of Gandhian institutions, while ensuring that the government continues to use public money for the proper maintenance and upkeep of such institutions, in consultation with eminent Gandhians, historians and archivists from India and around the world,” says the joint statement.

“There will be new museums, an amphitheater, VIP lounge, shops, food court among other things in the newly created ‘world class’ memorial as per the newspaper reports.

Kunj, at Sabarmati Ashram (Wikipedia)

“But, the place has never needed a ‘world-class’ makeover to attract tourists. The charisma of Gandhi along with the authenticity and simplicity of the place has been enough,” says the statement.

“Reports say that the project will be under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister. This is in keeping with the present government’s strategy to appropriate and commercialise all Gandhian institutions in the country. The worst example of this can be seen in Sevagram, but the most frightening aspect is government control over all Gandhian archives. As Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by elements whose ideology still inspires some of those in power in India, this danger cannot be overlooked,” it adds.

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COVID-19 Gujarat India News

Dahod shows the way in providing jobs under MGNREGA

He said that at the all-India level, the South Parganas district in West Bengal is second on the list for generating 2.20 lakh employment on a single day…reports Anand Singh.

At a time when lakhs of people employed in different sectors have been left jobless owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, Gujarat’s Dahod, one of the tribal districts of the state, has created record number of jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

According to the Central government data, Dahod broke its own record of 2,40,500 labour per day under MGNREGA generated last year by providing jobs to 2,78,484 people in 24 hours on June 17.

Rachit Raj, the outgoing District Development Officer of Dahod, who was transferred to Junagadh as District Magistrate on June 19, said: “During the Covid pandemic, many people lost their jobs and returned back to their villages. So, it was challenge for us to provide employment to the people who had returned to their villages from different cities.”

The 2014 batch IAS officer added that history has been made in Gujarat, as no district has generated so much labour employment on a single day till date.

He said that at the all-India level, the South Parganas district in West Bengal is second on the list for generating 2.20 lakh employment on a single day.

Highlighting the initiatives in view of the pandemic, the IAS officer said: “We distributed work in the district. We initiated the work of digging community wells, which could provide water for cultivation, drinking and other purposes.”

He said that the administration also brought the work of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana under MGNREGA to provide employment to the people.

He said that Dahod district reported the highest labour engagement under MGNREGA, with most of them employed under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and the Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Yojana.

According to the officer, 12,378 households were employed in April and 77,429 in May this year. With an increase in daily wages from Rs 198 to Rs 224, they managed to sustain their livelihood, he added.

When asked given that Dahod is one of the tribal dominated districts of Gujarat, how did he control the spread of the virus in the villages as scores of people returned back from the cities, Raj said: “We ensured that the work under MGNREGA provided safety to the people. We also made the sarpanchs of the villages aware to keep a track of the Covid patients in their villages. We also set up Covid centres in the primary schools and made adequate arrangements for medicines for the people.”

The officer said that he also started a new initiative to deal with the Covid crisis named ‘Panch Mantra’.

“This included five mantras — one, we served Ayurvedic kadha called ‘Ukala’ to boost the immunity of the people in the district as suggested by the Ayush Ministry. It was provided free of cost to people.

“The second mantra was mass sanitization; the third mantra included individual sanitisation; the fourth mantra was fogging, so as to kill mosquitoes or germs or other parasites; and the fifth mantra included public address system, in which we used loudspeakers to create mass awareness regarding the dos and dont’s for corona, preparedness, elderly care etc. In this way, we tried to defeat Covid and make the entire zone corona free.

“These activities are being carried out panchayat-wise, making sure that all principles of care and caution, including social distancing, are maintained,” the officer added.

To a question about the number of people getting affected by the second wave of the pandemic and several reports of people not getting hospital beds, Raj said: “On April 18, we formed a committee comprising doctors and district administration officials for ‘Patient Audit’ to identify the people admitted to the hospitals who had almost recovered and did not need hospital beds.

“We spoke to the doctors and shifted the patients who required the least medical attention to other Covid wards so that people in need of hospital beds or ICU beds didn’t go back.”

He also pointed out that earlier this year, Dahod had bagged the best performance award under the grievance redressal category in the awards announced by Central government for the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samaan Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme.

The IAS officer further said that Dahod being one of the tribal districts of the state, they also focused on improving the nourishment of the people, especially the children and girls.

“We distributed Covid kits to the adolescent girls and children in the district, and focused on the Aanganbadi centres to provide proper meal to the children,” he said.

Raj said that to tackle malnourishment, “we covered pregnant ladies, newborns, infants and adolescent girls”.

“We screened these people and then provided them treatment to solve the problem,” he said.

The IAS officer further pointed out that a ‘Mission Mangalam’ (ladies’ self-help group) project has been initiated in the district through which women are earning good amounts, helping them become self-dependent and sustainable.

Raj also said that the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in Dahod district has witnessed a decline in the last two years.

Citing figures, the officer said: “The MMR in Dahod was 51 in 2019-20, which dropped to 40 in 2020-21, which is very less as compared to the state or national average.”

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Thousands defy Covid curbs to gather at Gujarat temple

Women in their thousands from Navapura in Changodar and Nidharada village in Sanand Taluka thronged the road leading to the temple, carrying water-filled pots on their heads….reports Asian Lite News.

Thousands of devotees from Navapura and Nidhrada villages in Sanand Tehsil of Ahmedabad gathered to shower water on the Baliyadev temple to fulfil their vow to the temple deity, thereby violating the current Covid guidelines of physical distancing and masks. The Sanand police has filed charges in the matter and arrested around two dozen people for violation of the protocols.

Even as the entire country is grappling with the crisis of the second wave of the corons pandemic, and the government as well as the public taking utmost precautions against the virus spread, Gujarat’s Sanand city on Tuesday saw thousands of women gathering to offer water at the Baliyadev Temple.

Thousands of people were mobilized for a mass gathering upon the Baliyadev Temple priest’s call to fulfil the ‘Badha’ (vow) to shower the temple. Along with the vow, a myth was also linked that by fulfilling the vow the temple deity would get rid of the corona outbreak in the country.

Women in their thousands from Navapura in Changodar and Nidharada village in Sanand Taluka thronged the road leading to the temple, carrying water-filled pots on their heads. Apart from the mass gathering, music was also being played by a DJ. Visuals of the mass gathering show the women marching as the music is being played. Apart from physical distancing going for a toss, the place was also seen with most of the people flouting mask guidelines.

As soon as the video of the incident went viral, the local police sprung into action. The Changodar police went to Navapura village to investigate the matter. The police found out that the women had gathered in huge numbers near the Baliyadev Temple.

The police arrested 23 people in Navapura village, including the village Sarpanch as well as the organiser of the mass religious gathering.

“As soon as we came to know about the incident, the police rushed to the place and we have filed charges at both the Navapura village and Nidhrada villages. We have arrested the Navapura Sarpanch, the DJ and the organizer in Navapura. We appeal to the people to please follow the Covid protocols and cooperate with the administration in fighting the virus,” said KT Kamaria, DySP, Ahmedabad Rural.

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Liquid oxygen use banned for non-medical purposes

Further, all stocks of liquid oxygen should also be made available to the government for use for medical purposes, it said, adding that no exception is allowed…reports Asian Lite News.

To ensure that there is no lack of oxygen in the Covid-19 hospitals across the country, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Sunday banned use of liquid oxygen for any non-medical purpose while directing its manufacturing units to maximise production and make it available to the government for medical purposes only.

The ministry, in an order, stated that the National Executive Committee (NEC), under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, has taken certain decisions to ensure the uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen across the country.

“And whereas, it has been considered necessary to restrict industrial usage of oxygen for ensuring availability of adequate and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen across the country for the management of Covid-19 patients and necessary order in this regard was issued on 22.04.2021 to restrict the use of industrial oxygen.

“Now, therefore, in the exercise of powers conferred under section 10(2)(I) and section 65 of the DM Act, the undersigned, hereby directs the state/Union Territory governments and state/Union Territory Authorities to ensure that use of liquid oxygen is not allowed for any non-medical purpose and that all manufacturing units may maximize their production of liquid oxygen, and make it available to the government for use for medical purposes only, with immediate effect and until further orders,” the order stated.

Further, all stocks of liquid oxygen should also be made available to the government for use for medical purposes, it said, adding that no exception is allowed.

Relatives of COVID-19 patients wait to refill cylinders with medical oxygen, in New Delhi  on Sunday, April 25, 2021 (Pallav Paliwal)

On April 22, the MHA prohibited supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, except those exempted by the government.

The ministry had also issued a directive to states and Union Territories asking them to make sure there are no restrictions in the supply of medical oxygen.

It said that the availability of adequate and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen is an important prerequisite for managing moderate and severe cases of Covid-19 and with the increasing cases, the medical oxygen supply will need to keep pace with the requirements of the states and Union Territories.

Empowered Group-II (EG-II) was set up with the mandate for coordinating medical logistics, including medical oxygen, and has reviewed the supply of oxygen for industrial use in order to divert the same to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen in the country and save precious lives.

Accordingly, EG-II had recommended prohibiting the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers forthwith from April 22, till further orders, with the exception of nine specified industries.

The recommendations were accepted by the Central government and the said decision, along with the list of nine exempted industries, have been conveyed by Secretary, Health and Family Welfare on April 18, 2021.

The ministry in the order stated that all District Magistrates, Superintendents of Police, and Deputy Commissioners of Police of districts concerned will be personally liable for implementing the directions and ensuring there is no hindrance in oxygen supply.
“No restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the states and transport authorities shall be instructed to accordingly allow free inter-state movement of oxygen-carrying vehicles,” the MHA directive stated.

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Modi To launch Country’s First Seaplane Service

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his two-day visit to his home state Gujarat, on Saturday will pay tributes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his 145th birth anniversary, by inaugurating the country’s first seaplane service between the Statue of Unity (SoU) site at Kevadiya Colony to the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad.

He will also participate in the Rashtriya Ekta Divas Parade.

The inauguration programme will most likely be the last item on the PM’s agenda on Saturday. He will take off from the Kevadiya Jetty built on lake number 3 near the Sardar Sarovar Dam. The sea plane will arrive at the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad. From there, the PM is likely to return to Delhi.

The seaplane services will be started by the aviation company, SpiceJet.

The services will be provided incentives and benefits under the central government’s ‘Udaan’ scheme. The scheme is being implemented as per a tripartite agreement between the Gujarat government, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

For the maiden flight, the company has procured a Twin Otter 300 seaplane, which has arrived at Kevadiya SoU jetty. Infrastructural facilities such as a floating jetty are ready at both the places of landing and takeoff at lake number 3 at Kevadiya and at the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad.

Kevadia (Gujarat): The ‘Statue of Unity’ that was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in honour of country’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Kevadia, Gujarat on Oct 31, 2018. (Photo: IANS/BJP)

Before that the PM will take part in the National Unity Parade. The police forces of Gujarat Police, Central Reserved Armed Forces, the Border Security Force, the Indo Tibetan Border Police, the Central Industrial Security Force and the National Security Guards will participate in the parade.

The PM will also witness a rifle drill by female officers of the CRPF. The Indian Air Force will be performing a flypast.

He is also likely to interact with more than 400 trainee officers from services such as the Indian Administrative Services through a virtual conference.

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