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The Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority (MahaRERA) has directed developer to give an undertaking that the firm will cover any losses suffered by five home buyers, who got refund orders for delayed possession last month, till the filing of an appeal with the appellate tribunal.

On September 27, 2018, MahaRERA had ordered the developer to refund the investments of five home buyers – Rahul Bhosale, Hitesh Shah, Riyaz Jetham, Alistair Gomes and Sachin Kadam – who had booked flats in Acropolis project in Virar through a subvention scheme in which buyers paid eight per cent of the flat consideration and the banks paid the remaining 92 per cent. The order was to be executed by the developer within 30 days from the date of the order.

The subvention scheme itself is a very big scam, in this scheme the builder gets almost 95% of the loan amount on signing of the agreement without laying a brick, unlike regular home loan where the bank pays to the builder as per progress of the work, the builder lures the home buyers on promise to pay EMI till he hands over the possession, but when builder fails to construct or give possession on time the liabilities comes on the home buyer and the home buyers becomes defaulter and not the builder, in subvention scheme builder charges 10% more then the market value which the buyer realises on the later stage, subvention scheme is design to cheat home buyers.

The developer approached MahaRERA again on October 11 and got a stay on the order till October 24. On October 24, the matter was heard again, and the developer sought extension of stay on the execution of the judgment till the end of 60-day appeal period, citing financial crunch to pay the decretal amount that needs to be paid before the Maharashtra Real Estate Appellate Tribunal.

According to Section 43 of RERA, the appellant has to deposit 50 per cent of the amount with the tribunal before the appeal can be heard.

During the hearing before MahaRERA member Madhav Kulkarni, Sulaiman Bhimani, who appeared for the home buyers, strongly opposed the stay petition arguing that home buyers will suffer monetary losses since they had purchased the flats with bank loans and are paying EMIs. He argued that Rahul Bhosale, who had taken two bank loans, had received a foreclosure letter from the bank stating that if dues are paid before a cut-off date, he will get a concession of Rs seven lakh. He argued that home buyers will suffer immediate losses if the stay is extended.

Kulkarni then directed the developer to file an undertaking to make good any losses suffered by the home buyers till the end of the 60-day appeal period which ends on November 26. The stay was granted after developer complied with the undertaking.

Sulaiman Bhimani Legal Consultant
Expert RERA & Co-operative Scty Matters
Human and Civil Rights Activist
President Citizens Justice Forum 
9323642081
Sulaimanbhimani11@gmail.com

Aarey Milk Colony, spread over 1,259 hectares of land, is an extension of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. In 1949, the land we know as Aarey was given to the Dairy Development Board of Maharashtra to shift the cattle sheds from the city to Aarey. Since then this area has been known as Aarey Milk Colony. Aarey has 27 tribal hamlets; in terms of flora and fauna, it has leopards and numerous species of birds, animals, insects, butterflies, snakes, herbs, shrubs and trees (which number more than 4 Lakh 80 thousand).

In November 2014 , morning walkers, cyclists and other regular visitors to Aarey Milk Colony found notices put up, announcing that 2298 trees in Aarey would be felled for construction of the carshed for Metro3. Citizens came together to protest against this mass felling of trees. Thus was born the Save Aarey Movement.

In December 2014 angry citizens for the first time gathered in Aarey Picnic Point area to protest against this unnecessary destruction of the city's ecology. 1200 + citizens came together again in February 2015, creating a human chain along Marine Drive. Post this event, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra announced appointment of an Expert Committee to explore other options for location of the Metro3 carshed .

The Expert Committee had 6 members; four Bureaucrats and two environmental experts from IIT and NEERI. Both the environmentalists put a dissenting note in the Committee's report, holding that Aarey is an ecologically sensitive area and rich in biodiversity. The proposed carshed location is the floodplain of the Mithi River, and construction in this area can lead to flooding in Andheri. Hence the carshed location should be shifted out of Aarey, they said .The other options for the carshed location suggested by the expert members were Kanjurmarg and Backbay in Colaba.

The Detailed Project Report prepared in 2011 for the Metro 3 Line also mentions three other options (along with the option of 33 ha land in Aarey) for the Metro 3 Carshed location: the ground in Bandra Kurla Complex, 26 Ha of land in Kalina, the Mahalaxmi Race Course. Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation ( MMRCL) always claims that the 33 ha land area in Aarey is the only suitable location for the Metro 3 Carshed.

In 2015 the NGO, Vanashakti, along with citizens, filed a petition in National Green Tribunal (NGT) praying that Aarey be declared a forest and an Eco-Sensitive Zone. NGT on 19th August 2015, ordered status quo in Aarey pending final decision on the case. MMRCL, in August 2017 started dumping debris in the Metro 3 Carshed area in Aarey, along with excavation and mud filling activities in the area. This was in contempt of Court orders and was highlighted at the NGT. On 14th May 2018, NGT again ordered against any dumping of debris, land reclamation and Tree Felling in Aarey pending final decision in the case. But MMRCL continues to violate court orders. They have cordoned off more area in Aarey on the opposite side of the carshed area and have started land reclamation. What initially started as destruction of 33 ha of forest land is now leading to destruction of a much bigger area. Citizens lodged complaints in Aarey Police Station against these violations of court orders. MMRCL has also evicted Adivasis from Prajapur Pada in Aarey to SRA Buildings. This is in violation with Tribal Rights. Adivasis have filed a petition in Mumbai High Court.

On 20th September 2018 Judges from NGT's Principal Bench decided that this matter of declaring Aarey a Forests does not come under NGT's jurisdiction and NGT directed the petitioners to withdraw application and approach the right Authorities. This has happened after 3 and 1/2 years long proceedings in National Green Tribunal.

Through an RTI in 2017, Vanashakti found a letter written by the Divisional Manager of Sanjay Gandhi National Park( SGNP). This letter indicates that Aarey Milk Colony was of a much larger area earlier, and that 2076 ha of land from Aarey Milk Colony was Transferred to SGNP in 1969. But the forest department claims that they do not have any land records related to Aarey Milk Colony.

The forest department, in 2015, had submitted a draft proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) to declare Aarey Milk Colony as an Eco Sensitive Zone. MMRCL moved an application with the MOEF and got 165 ha of land (1.65 sq km) from Aarey denotified from the Eco Sensitive Zone. The MOEF denotified an area of 1.65 sq km from the ESZ in December 2016. This decision has been challenged by Vanashakti in NGT through a different petition.

Already, a large part of Aarey Forest has been lost to different projects and construction activities. Citizens fear that with the entry of the Metro 3 carshed, better described as a railway service centre, the rest of this forest, spreading over 1259 ha, will be lost to construction activities for ever.

Mumbai City is already sinking because of the destruction of its water bodies, wetlands and mangroves. Loss of Forest area and destruction of the floodplain of the Mithi River in Aarey will lead to further destruction of the city and flooding in more new areas in Mumbai. Lakes , supplying drinking water to Mumbai are also located in Forest Areas. Vihar lake on the border of SGNP and Aarey.

The air quality of Mumbai will be seriously hit if 4000 full grown trees are removed from its last remaining green space,the Aarey forests. .

A Movement that started with the news of felling of 2298 trees has brought out more shocking details. MMRCL floated a tender document for felling of 3384 trees in Aarey Milk Colony in 2017. And number of trees that are in line for sacrifice is still increasing. Tribals have lost their homes and livelihood. Floodplain of Mithi River has been damaged and this city will finally lose 1.65 sq km of forest areas to construction activities if this Carshed is not shifted out of Aarey. Facts finding team of Citizens have also found letters that speak about Government granting 3 FSI on 33 ha (82.5 acres) of Aarey land. A design layout prepared by MMRCL for the Carshed area also has marked an area on 33 ha land for realestate prooject.

Citizens of Mumbai needs to decide what is more important for them. A peaceful and happy life in a place requires, Fresh Air, Good supply of Drinking water , accessible open spaces and flood free roads .

In a Costal city like Mumbai, when the entire world is suffering from the consequences of Global Warming a place like Aarey becomes extremely crucial for survival of the city.

2

Suicide is a taboo subject for conversation. Particularly what makes a person want to commit suicide or what to say in the face of their pain.

“A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future.”
― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

Suicide is a subject almost everyone has thought of at some point or the other. Almost everyone has wondered what it would be like to end our own life or how it could be done without confronting the great fear - pain, suffocation or other discomforts. Yet suicide remains a taboo subject. The feelings behind suicide. What makes someone commit suicide. We can talk statistics or prevention or helplines, but in the face of actual pain that drives a person to suicide, we have no skills. There is a difference between contemplating suicide and planning to commit suicide. An important one. The first is a fairly common and natural response to unbearable negative emotions. The other is an irreversible action.

I admit I have often considered suicide. I have written about suicide before too. From a perspective of statistics, from a perspective of understanding widespread distress needing political answers, from a perspective of empathy when I read about suicide, from a perspective of failing to support and grieving when someone I know commits suicide and I have also considered suicide as an option to end my own life when I was very sad. Yet, whenever I have tweeted about the subject, I have immediately got responses that amount to stopstopstopstopstopstopstopstopSTOP! It is so immediate that it would be hilarious if the subject were not grave. I have got helpline numbers as replies, I have got advice to not let dark thoughts enter my mind.

Hello! I write and tweet and comment and contemplate issues of human rights abuse. How in the world can one do that without having any dark thoughts? If I were planning to commit suicide, why would I be tweeting instead of finding myself a rope? I understand that it can sometimes be a cry for help by a distraught person, but if the rest of the words are perfectly normal, where is the harm in reading to find out what is being said?

Because here is the thing. Even if a person were tweeting about suicide publicly as a last ditch call for attention and help, the last thing they'd need is to be told to shut up or a sea of platitudes. What they would be needing is an empathetic listener who cares.

What exactly is this fear of talking about suicides?

“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

I admit I have spent a great deal of time contemplating committing suicide over the years. As in killing myself. I have been in unhappy relationships involving heartbreak, I've been in an abusive marriage with an alcoholic, I've been a broke single mother of a disabled child. Despair and depression are no strangers. And yet I am here, typing this post.

I have actually found thinking about suicide in great detail helpful. Instead of fearing the pain of death (and thus possibly taking a rash step "while I have the courage" maybe after a glass or two of vodka), I've gone and researched methods of suicide. What would cause the least pain? What are the consequences of failure? What is the best method so that it causes least pain and least risk of failing and living with permanent damage? And anyone who knows me knows that when I say research, I mean obsessive information finding till I am convinced I know the subject in and out without actual experience. Enough to make a very well considered decision. On and off, when I'm in utter despair, I've gone and rechecked all the information. And yet here I am, typing all this.

Is this a guarantee I will never commit suicide? No. But it pretty much guarantees that I have given it thorough thought and not found it a better tradeoff for now. It guarantees that if I do it, it will not be a thoughtless impulse, but a decision I take about my life after considering all options I have.

So how has contemplating suicide helped me?

By giving me an option. By giving me an exit from the pain. By giving me the concrete information that if all this gets unbearable, I still have the option to exit. In the process, a miracle happens. I am no longer cornered by my despair. I always have the cheat route out. And because I know that, I am never out of options. I lose the fear of making attempts to change my circumstances that could fail.  Just allowing myself to spend time thinking about ending myself is a catharsis. If no one else, at least I am acknowledging how bad things are. I am listening to myself. It helps me feel heard. It gives me a vocabulary for describing my situation when asking for help. No, I don't mean "I am suicidal, help me or else." I mean "This, this and this is the reason for my despair. I am not able to see functional ways out. I need help." - because hello, I've gone through all the reasons in my contemplation and have them now sorted out in my head.

And sometimes, in a very cynical way, the contemplations have saved me. If I don't care whether I live or die, why not try this one last thing or the other? If I hit a dead end, I can always die.

“Killing myself was a matter of such indifference to me that I felt like waiting for a moment when it would make some difference.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Here is an example how. When I was younger, my emotions were more volatile. Taking what I felt seriously and giving it serious thought helped me see things more clearly and invariably, I ended up thinking that if there was any hope, I could use it and if there wasn't, well, I could always die. But the well thought out option being there and not at any threat of being taken off the table gave me the confidence to know I could opt for it any time and there was no need to do it right now. I could afford to wait and see. I am truly grateful no one immediately tried to stop me at such times, or I'd have been tempted to use the opportunity before someone blocked it from me.

Now I am older. I have a young disabled child. Whoever knows me knows that I'd chew my arm off before I allowed anything to harm him. Well, losing a mom would definitely harm him. So suicide is totally not an option any more. At least while he is alive. He needs me. Period. Again, if I hadn't thought this through, I could have been at risk of giving up without considering the impact.

In some of my more selfish and melodramatic ways, I've even thought "What will be, will be" If I am not there, someone or the other will care for my son, though I can't imagine who, right now. But then, in such a melodramatic moment, the desire is also to leave a lasting mark on the world when I die. And oops, it is not "orphaned kid in moment of despair". I'd like to be remembered for something better, thank you very much.

Whatever it is. Others may have their own reasoning. Still others may come to a well considered decision that suicide is actually a good choice for them, When my father was dying of Parkinson's, he had the option of looking forward to an indeterminate bed ridden existence with little control over his body, being bored out of his wits and too exhausted to do anything about it but to wait to die. He begged me to kill him almost every week. It is illegal and I have two more dependents, or I would definitely have arranged for him to be freed as per his will if it were legal. Others do it out of poverty. Starvation. When the alternative is to live in debt and watch your family suffer with no hope of ever providing for them in sight, it can be a brutal life to look forward to, and death may simply be a matter of running out of the ability to fight.

“Let them think what they liked, but I didn't mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank -- but that's not the same thing.”
― Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer and other stories

Whatever it is, however it plays out, a suicide is not about dying or exiting the world, it is about escaping unbearable torment. A person who feels unheard and uncared for, is unlikely to respond to a panicked flood of platitudes that s/he has heard a hundred times that drowns their voice all over again, even in the contemplation of death.

How agonized we are by how people die. How untroubled we are by how they live. ~ P. Sainath

My suggestion is that we all examine what this fear is that stops us from listening on hearing that word. Because the lives of many around us could depend on how we respond to their pain. If someone has made a well considered decision to die, there isn't much we can do about it, but if someone is screaming into a void of despair, perhaps us offering a listening ear will give them the space to be heard, and in the process get a clearer view of their situation.

What do you think?

6

A leaked copy of an agreement where Penguin India undertakes to recall and destroy all copies of the book "The Hindus: An Alternative History" has taken Twitter by storm. Unsurprisingly, it is the Hindutvawadis with their rigid insistence on controlling the correct interpretation of Hinduism who have been the challenge. A case filed by Dina Nath Batra, convenor of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti makes all kinds of important or bizarre (depending on your perspective) observations.

To me, this was mostly a good opportunity to run riot with my favorite accusation, now also a pun. "The Hindutvawadis are destroying The Hindus" and variations thereof.

Perhaps I don't take the matter with the gravity it deserves. Or perhaps there is a knee jerk intellectual tendency to park on the opposite side of the Hindutvawadis (which is a pretty solid default to have, most of the time), but I don't see this as a matter of censorship. It is simply a configuration of prevailing circumstances ranging from the laws to orthodox mindsets, and frankly, India has worse problems.

I don't believe in absolute free speech. It is a myth. What any place has is an agreement that draws a line demarcating where you swing your hand and where I have my nose, so to say. Some places have the line pushed so far to one side that it doesn't exist. These would be lawless places, and the free speech probably wouldn't get compensated by the other risks in terms of quality of life. Other places have a heavy set of rules on what can be said and what cannot. Most places lie somewhere in the middle. For instance, leaking out secret passwords or other information won't count as your right to free speech (unless it is your information). While the line should never be drawn in a place where it ends up putting collective preferences over an individual's autonomy, such a utopia does not exist and whether we "see" the "unfairness" or not is largely about whether people like us are bothered by it.

freedom of speech quote
May Freedom of Speech be always in the streets and on the net

 

So while I wouldn't be offended by such a book, being an atheist, I wouldn't be offended by any book reinterpreting religion. I don't do religion. I dare say I'd be offended by a book promoting fascist thoughts being sold openly. I bet the RSS wouldn't mind. And it is complex. Not many free speechers for example protested for banned extremist sites to be unbanned. I most certainly didn't, and I'd oppose them being unbanned. My reasoning would be that it promotes results in real life that will harm people. The case against the book took a similar and opposite stand, that it would attack the Hindu identity by distorting it into something people don't recognize.

And this can be argued till the end of time. Right wing intolerant thoughts are unbalanced, one sided and primitive. I have no hesitation accepting this is my opinion. At the same time, primitive or not, they are a large part of the country and in a democracy have the right to influence that "line" of what is allowed and what isn't as per their wish as well. I don't have to like it, and I don't like it. But I have to suck it up and accept that our laws are what they are, and we have created them as a country.

In my view, if orthodox Hindus with "injured" feelings have been fighting a four year case in courts without killing, injuring somone or burning their belongings, or at least a car or thrashing a few people or calling the author a slut, etc, it actually counts as a welcome change in India. To those who cannot fathom it, Indian right wing rules on the street rather than lose intellectual battles on paper. It is fascist, yes. I am not defending it. Only describing what is normal. Countless incidences of vandalism, riots, aron  and more stand witness that the Hindu right in India has to really mellow down to fight a case by the rules alone.

And Penguin did not have to agree with them. The public seems to be under some belief that Penguin is a humanitarian organization promoting their political goals of free speech (read resistance to right wing suppression of liberal thought). They are a publishing house with a business to run in an era when publishing is already fighting to survive. They cannot take over our job - that of creating laws condusive to free speech. If their book breaks laws, at the end of the day it will be cheaper to pulp it than fight a losing battle in court AND earn the ire of the political right as well (which the supposed vanguards of free speech won't support an inch beyond writing op-eds). Besides Penguin probably knows that the book got more publicity with this ban than without it.

People who wouldn't touch a book called "The Hindus" with a 10 foot pole out of sheer disinterest, will probably buy it out of rebellion or curiosity for accessing the forbidden. Sheer titillation. "If it got banned (for the public, this is as good as a ban), there must be something really scandalous in it. Which probably means I can claim to own it or have read it and tell others with great effect." Penguin is an old player. Penguin knows this. Cold blooded? No more than any other business playing with the cards they have been dealt.

The way I look at it, if we want people not bowing down to laws we find unfair, then it is our job to change unfair laws as a country before expecting Penguin to take a lead in fighting religious intolerance in this instance because it is them directly targeted. And we can try to change laws, but we will fail. Because we are a minority occupying our own corner in the media, while the media getting mass consumed is still showing three shocked reaction shots per slightest lack of respect to Gods, which in turn is possible by people clearly marked as "villain".

It is time for the assorted seculars, liberals, free speechers to realize that the country does not seek them out in their armchairs and update their opinions based on what they say. Most of India doesn't even know the names of the newspapers where these lofty thoughts reside. They will need to come across thoughts that show them why one way of thinking is better than another, and we have done a pathetic job of it so far. I am not leaving myself out of this accusation.

I am just sucking it up and realizing that my "The Hindutwadis wrecked The Hindus" metaphors will have to wait, because in this instance The Hindus got screwed by the creators, because the Hindus failed to evolve thoughts of the Hindus as a whole. Which probably is another metaphor.

2

and so on.

With minor variations, the story is the same. A miracle fix for our country's water woes. Affordable drinking water. And so on. Sarvajal currently not making a profit is seen as a halo, but creating a market out of a fundamental need is hardly a loss making proposition, so I'll save my tears of concern here.

Most of the articles are very upfront that this is not an NGO, but a for profit company Sarvajal backed by Piramal Enterprises. The era of purchasing drinking water and praising the lord that it is cheap, is here. Except, none of the articles have noticed it in the flood of clear, drinking water. Paid for by an ATM card, of course.

Animation of dripping water
Animation of dripping water

Considering that there is an abundance of people who think lie a certain ex-CEO of Nestle and see water as a commodity that must be paid for, rather than a basic human right, I'm not going to get into that ugly debate here. I'm going to raise several other questions about this miracle.

  1. This company digs bore wells (or makes its franchisees dig borewells) to access water to treat through reverse osmosis to sell. Underground water aquifiers are a national resource and the indiscriminate use of them, particularly in a way that spoils the quality of water is a crime against the country. Even if you pay people to use the water instead of selling it cheap.
  2. The Sarvajal plants are using the waste water from the reverse osmosis to recharge the ground water. I have no idea why they are doing this, but then I have no idea what else they could do with brine either. Offer it as a substitute in processes that need salt water? My guess is that "recharging the ground water" is just a pretty term for treating a borewell like your gutter, because the brine from the Reverse Osmosis contains the Totally Dissolved Solids from the water that got cleaned as well. In other words, if you are operating on a 50% efficiency (the plants are capable of 65% according to the blog of someone who worked there), then the waste water is TWICE as problematic as the water you began with. Dumping that into the water source makes zero sense.
  3. But it isn't like these concerns haven't been raised. A Business standard article from January says: D C Garg, hydrologist at the district groundwater department, says this process may increase the TDS content in groundwater. But Anuj Sharma, chief operating officer of Sarvajal, argues that only 0.5 per cent of the extracted water is used for drinking. Most is used for agriculture, shows groundwater extraction data. The rather casual answer is worrisome, because it ignores the fact that the Sarvajal plant will make the water worse for those who are not their clients and still use ground water for drinking. A sort of self-fulfilling business if the purification plant is making the water worse than it used to be, so that it can't be used without their technology. This is rather alarming when you are speaking of the water of an entire area at large. The casual dismissal of concerns about water quality should raise alarms.
  4. But can the 99.5% of water used for agriculture purposes be dismissed so easily? An irrigation experiment with saline water at different concentrations was carried out over a 7-year period on the same clay–silty soil in the Volturno Valley at Vitulazio to evaluate long-term effects of irrigation with saline water on crops and soil. The abstract of the research paper ends with the following paragraph. Irrigation with saline water led to an increase in ESP and a degradation of the soil physical properties that were estimated indirectly by measuring aggregate stability in water (IASW). The index of aggregate stability in water for the top layer (0–0.15 m) was inversely correlated to the ESP values, even after the leaching due to the autumn–spring rainfall. Can a business be allowed to risk this for the entire region?
  5. While drinking water does not need approval from environment ministry, how can it be that adding undrinkable water to the water aquifer is not prohibited? The Environment Ministry needs to answer for why it allows clear degradation of the quality of the water across the country so that dependence on commercial methods increases.

Sudden epidemic of Solar-Powered ATMs in newsFinally, I think it is not about the cost of the water, but the responsibility of the water. Citizenship of the country cannot be divorced from the right to life essential resources in it. It is not a question of who provides the cheaper water, but a question of the responsibility for providing clean water being transferred to individuals without access to water bodies, so that they end up becoming purchasers of a fundamental need. It is a different matter if the Reverse Osmosis unit were owned by a village to provide water for people in it and the resulting degradation of the water table were accepted by the residents of the area jointly.

This is also a convenient excuse for the government to abdicate its responsibility to ensure sustainable water distribution across the country and hand over more and more of this precious resources into the control of corporations. The low price is the lure, but the destination is still the abdication of your right to clean drinking water. The destination is yet another place where people buy a product in the place of what they had for free.

Sudden epidemic of Solar-Powered ATMs in newsAlso, it is not true that extracting ground water is the best choice for drinking water. Rainwater harvesting is a far superior method of collecting and storing drinking water that needs no processing to be drinkable. Rainwater harvesting is also an urgent need in a country that is expected to be mostly water scarce in another couple of decades. Depleting ground water is a dangerous way of getting water, as depleted tables will mean the need to sink borewells deeper and deeper. Ground water is also not infinite, and reckless extraction will result in wells running dry.

To base a method of substituting a government responsibility with a product that is created through a shared resource and that damages the shared resource in the long run cannot really be seen as a long term solution. Yet, more and more areas are buying bottled water for drinking. Sarvajal is planning an expansion, as are other "brands" of water, but there is little news on rainwater harvesting, sustainability, pollution control or equitable distribution of water that puts life over industry.

Faced with droughts every year, we continue with our reckless worship of development that boils down to  commodification of public resources in an extremely short sighted manner. The government simply does not care to monitor hens that lay golden eggs - be it taxes, or providing the people an alternative to revolting against their theft of natural resources.

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