31 January, 2020

27 Min Read

First case of coronavirus in India

Syllabus subtopic: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the coronavirus and its spread across the world; measures taken by the Indian government in this regard

News: India reported its first case of novel coronavirus. An Indian student of Wuhan University in China tested positive in Kerala.

  • This has put the focus on the extent of preparedness in the world’s second-most populous nation to deal with a virus that has wreaked havoc in neighbouring China and is spreading swiftly across the world.


The Indian case was announced as experts at the World Health Organization prepared to meet to decide whether to declare the outbreak a global epidemic.

Where did the virus originate?

  • Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in central China, is the epicentre of the outbreak. But the infection has spread to all 31 provinces of China, killing 170 people and infecting another 7,711. Across the world, it has been reported in 21 countries, including India.

Is India prepared?

  • With the virus having entered India, monitoring and surveillance will have to be stepped up to prevent its further spread.

  • As there is no vaccine or drug available against the virus, the cases are managed according to their symptoms.

  • N-CoV is fatal but exact fatality is not estimated and how the virus will behave in the new population is also not known. Therefore, prevention and strict surveillance is very important in India.

  • When we talk about India, the cities here are overpopulated and the poor living conditions, inadequate amenities, poor waste management, unhygienic habits and practices, and the degraded sewerage system help spread viruses here with tremendous rapidity.

  • On the whole, the environment under which the virus grows has become dominant. At the same time, the possibilities of close contacts have become stronger due to concentration of people.

Measures taken by the govt.

  • Stepping up its preparedness, the central government said that isolation wards have been readied in hospitals across all states and Union territories (UTs) to face any contingency.

  • Personal protection equipment and masks are available in adequate quantities in all the states and UTs.

  • Health authorities continued to screen all passengers coming from China and Hong Kong at over 21 airports.

  • The government is procuring more of the thermal screening sensors that are operational in airports. Immigration and other staff members at airports have been sensitized and ambulances are on standby. Medical and para-medical staff are being deployed in shifts for round-the-clock service.

What is the criteria for declaring global health emergency?

The WHO declares a Public Health Emergency of International Concern when there is "an extraordinary event which is determined… to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease".

It has previously declared five global public health emergencies:

  1. Swine flu, 2009 -The H1N1 virus spread across the world in 2009, killing more than 200,000 people
  2. Polio, 2014 - Although closer than ever to eradication in 2012, polio numbers rose in 2013
  3. Zika, 2016 - The WHO declared Zika a public health emergency in 2016 after the disease spread rapidly through the Americas
  4. Ebola, 2014 and 2019 - The first emergency over the virus lasted from August 2014 to March 2016 as almost 30,000 people were infected and more than 11,000 died in West Africa. A second emergency was declared last year as an outbreak spread in DR Congo.

Source: Livemint

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Central Water Commission (CWC)

Syllabus subtopic: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the issue and e-flow norms; about CWC, its functions

News: Over a year after the government made it mandatory for hydro power projects on the upper reaches of the river Ganga’s tributaries to release minimum quantities of water through the year, 4 of the 11 projects are flouting norms, says a report by the Central Water Commission (CWC).


  • The Centre’s e-flow notification came into effect last October and gave companies three years to modify their design plans, if required, to ensure that a minimum amount of water flowed during all seasons. Power producers generally hoard water to create reserves to increase power production.

  • In September 2019, the government advanced this deadline, from October 2021 to December 2019. This was after the CWC undertook field visits to hydro power sites and reported that most of the power projects could begin implementing the norms right away and didn’t need three years.

What are these norms?

  • The ecological flow, or e-flow notification as it is called, specifies that the upper stretches of the Ganga — from its origins in the glaciers and until Haridwar — would have to maintain: 20% of the monthly average flow of the preceding 10-days between November and March, which is the dry season; 25% of the average during the ‘lean season’ of October, April and May; and 30% of monthly average during the monsoon months of June-September.

  • The CWC is tasked with measuring the flow and ensuring that plants comply with the law.

Way ahead

Violating the e-flow norms can mean closure of the project or a hefty fine but the government isn’t contemplating such action yet.

About the Central Water Commission (CWC)

Central Water Commission is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources and is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India.


  • The Commission is entrusted with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation of the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development.

  • It also undertakes the investigations, construction and execution of any such schemes as required.


  • CWC is headed by a Chairman, with the status of Ex-Officio Secretary to the Government of India.

  • The work of the Commission is divided among 3 wings namely,
  1. Designs and Research (D&R) Wing,
  2. River Management (RM) Wing and
  3. Water Planning and Projects (WP&P) Wing.

  • Each wing is placed under the charge of a full-time Member with the status of Ex-Officio Additional Secretary to the Government of India and comprising of number of Organizations responsible for the disposal of tasks and duties falling within their assigned scope of functions.

Note: to read more on the topic, click on the link below.


Source: The Hindu

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Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

Syllabus subtopic: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the issue of using chemicals in fruits and vegetables; about FSSAI

News: The Delhi High Court has observed that use of pesticides and chemicals to ripen fruits amounts to poisoning the consumer, while noting that invoking penal provisions against the culprits would have a deterrent effect.


  • Apart from the petition initiated by the court on its own, the High Court was also hearing two other pleas by private individuals seeking directions to the authorities to curb the use of pesticides and other chemicals on food products, especially the agricultural produce, coming into the national capital.

  • Due to excessive usage of pesticides in fruits and vegetable, various countries have banned the import of Indian vegetables and fruits and many more were under scrutiny.

Directions by the court

  • The High Court asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India [FSSAI] if calcium carbide was still being used to ripen fruits, like mangoes and sought the presence of its Chief Executive Officer to assist it on the next date of hearing.

  • It also asked the Ministry of Agriculture if any kit was available for consumers to test for calcium carbide at home. The Ministry replied that no such kit was available as the presence of calcium carbide can only be tested in laboratories with the help of proper equipment and additional chemicals.

Ripening agents used in fruits and vegetables

Ripening is a process in fruits that causes them to become more palatable. In general, fruit becomes sweeter, less green (typically "redder"), and softer as it ripens. Even though the acidity of fruit increases as it ripens, the higher acidity level does not make the fruit seem tarter.

  • Ripening agents speed up the ripening process. They allow many fruits to be picked prior to full ripening, which is useful, since ripened fruits do not ship well. For example, bananas are picked when green and artificially ripened after shipment by being gassed with ethylene.

  • Ethylene glycol, a compound made up of ethylene gas and hydrogen peroxide, costs anywhere from $15 to $19 in the U.S. Unfortunately, there is evidence that when ingested, the compound is poisonous, and eating the compound can cause kidney failure.

  • Calcium carbide is also used in some countries for artificially ripening fruit. When calcium carbide comes in contact with moisture, it produces acetylene gas, which is quite similar in its effects to the natural ripening agent, ethylene. Acetylene acts like ethylene and accelerates the ripening process. Industrial-grade calcium carbide may also contain traces of arsenic and phosphorus which makes it a human health concern. The use of this chemical for this purpose is illegal in most countries.

About Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

  • It is an autonomous body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.

  • It has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which is a consolidating statute related to food safety and regulation in India.

  • FSSAI is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.

  • The FSSAI is headed by a non-executive Chairperson, appointed by the Central Government, either holding or has held the position of not below the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.

  • The FSSAI has its headquarters at New Delhi. The authority also has 6 regional offices located in Delhi, Guwahati, Mumbai, Kolkata, Cochin, and Chennai.

Source: The Hindu

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New power scheme to replace UDAY

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation

Prelims and Mains focus: about the new scheme to be launched and how is it going to be a game changer for discoms and consumers; about UDAY and its shortcomings

News: The upcoming Budget is likely to introduce a new scheme directed at the power sector that would replace the NDA government’s earlier scheme, UDAY, which had floundered in its attempt to revive the country’s power distribution companies (discoms).


UDAY, launched in 2015, was aimed at reviving ailing state power discoms and make them operationally and financially efficient through various measures, like reducing aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses to 15 per cent by FY2019. The losses had come down to 18.79 per cent. The new scheme aims to achieve this 15 per cent target.

About the new scheme

  • The project would combine elements of strengthening the distribution system and the trajectory of loss reduction of UDAY.

  • Now it will be conditional — if states follow the trajectory of loss reduction, the central govt. will give them the money for strengthening the system. UDAY envisaged that the development funds will be conditional, but it was never implemented.

  • The new scheme is also expected to contain a plan to diversify power distribution across the country by moving from a mostly state-owned discom system to one where private firms would be allowed franchises to supply electricity to consumers. This would ensure competition and better service and would also ensure timely collection of money for the power distributed.

  • The govt. has suggested that the new set of reforms would be stricter in its implementation.

Source: Indian Express

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GS-II : International Relations Britain
UK finally leaves European Union

Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

Prelims and Mains focus: all about the Brexit issue; the Irish backstop agreement; about European Union

News: After more than three years of political wrangling, the departure of two prime ministers, and dozens of furious protests across the United Kingdom, Brexit is finally happening.

Context: At 23:00 GMT, January 31, the UK will officially end its 47-year membership of the European Union - becoming the first country ever to leave the bloc, and enter a transition period scheduled to end on December 31, 2020.

  • For about half of the UK population - 52 percent voted to quit the bloc in the June, 2016 referendum, Brexit day is being greeted with long-awaited celebrations. But for the other half - the 48 percent who voted to remain - it is a day of mourning.

Is this the end of the road?

The breaking of the ranks does not signal the end of Brexit, but the start of a new, potentially tumultuous chapter in the saga, leaving the UK just 11 months to negotiate a deal to be agreed by all 27 remaining EU states.

What next?

  1. The transition period
  • During the 11-month transition period, the UK will continue to follow all of the EU's rules and its trading relationship will remain the same, but it will not be part of EU political institutions and there will be no British members of the European Parliament.

  • The government's first priority will be to arrange a trade deal for future commercial relations with Europe, if it wants to avoid economic losses with its largest trading partner, but analysts question whether a comprehensive deal can be achieved in 11 months - a deadline Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted upon.

  • The key issue is "whether the UK is going to stick to its position of maintaining regulatory autonomy and not agreeing to alignment with EU rules, and what impact that could have on trade deals". The EU has said it requires the UK to stay in line if it wants a zero tariffs, zero quotas trade deal.

  • If no trade deal has been agreed and ratified by the end of 2020, the UK could face World Trade Organization-mandated tariffs on exports to the EU. Trade would suffer and some foreign investors would likely pull out of major industries, such as the thriving automotive sector. In October, a joint statement from aerospace, automotive, chemicals, food and drink and pharmaceutical sectors, which contribute a total of 98 billion pounds ($128bn) to the UK economy each year, warned the UK's Brexit plans could pose a "serious risk to manufacturing competitiveness".

  • The UK and EU will also have to negotiate the future of its relationship on law enforcement, data sharing and security, aviation standards and safety, access to fishing waters, and the regulation of medicines. For example, the UK is set to leave the European Arrest Warrant scheme - which allows British police to arrest EU nationals on behalf of European police services - and will have to agree to a replacement.

  1. Migration
  • After the transition period, the UK will create a new immigration system that will end freedom of movement.

  • The right of EU nationals who currently live in the UK, however, will not be affected, officials have promised.

  • The ruling Conservatives have pledged to introduce an "Australian-style points-based system to control immigration", an approach that will treat non-EU citizens and EU citizens (unless they are Irish citizens) wishing to move to the UK the same. The independent Migration Advisory Committee dismissed the system as "pointless". It is still uncertain exactly how the plan will work.

  • In practice, EU citizens will probably find it harder to live and work in the UK in the future.

  • For UK citizens, it will also be harder to live and work abroad - but this ultimately depends on negotiations with individual member states.


  • Some analysts are concerned that an EU without the UK means a weaker Europe, particularly in a global context in which the US is increasingly protectionist, and China increasingly aggressive.

  • Clearly, losing one of the big member states is a significant blow to the EU, and it does reduce its geopolitical and security clout. It's hard to know what the medium to long-term impacts will be.

Source: Indian Express

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GS-II : Jammu and Kashmir
Paharis to get reservation in J&K

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the new reservation policy in J&K; about Paharis

News: The Jammu and Kashmir Administration approved amendments to Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Rules, 2005, in a decision aimed at rationalising the policy and giving representation to 9.6 lakh Pahari-speaking people in the Union Territory.


  • After reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories and the enactment of Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Act, it had become imperative to rationalise the existing reservation percentage available to different categories so as to include Pahari-speaking people into the category of socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs).

  • Because of the remoteness and inaccessibility of the areas of their residence, the Pahari community has historically faced considerable economic distress leading to overall socio-economic backwardness.

  • On one hand, they are not able to compete with other sections of the society who are better placed in terms of socio-economic position as also in terms of access to services like Education and Health Care due to above mentioned disadvantages. On the other hand, the Pahari People are not able to derive any benefit even at the lower rung in respect of getting employment. The reservation provided to them will go a long way in improving their status, educational and job opportunities.

What was the reservation policy uptil now?

As per the existing rules, there is 8 per cent reservation in direct recruitment for Scheduled Castes, 10 per cent for Scheduled Tribes, two per cent for weaker and underprivileged classes, three per cent for residents of areas adjoining Line of Actual Control/ International Border, 20 per cent for residents of backward areas, besides horizontal reservation of 6 per cent for ex-servicemen and 3 per cent for persons with disabilities.

What has changed?

  • The residents of backward areas will now have 10 per cent reservation, Pahari-speaking people 4 per cent and 10 per cent quota for EWS. The SCs will continue to have 8 per cent reservation, STs 10 per cent, weaker and underprivileged classes 4 per cent, residents of areas adjoining the Line of Actual Control and the border 4 per cent, besides 6 per cent horizontal reservation for ex-servicemen and 4 per cent for persons with disabilities.

  • For admission in professional institutions, there will be 8 per cent reservation for SCs, 10 per cent for STs, 4 per cent for residents of areas along the Line of Actual Control, 10 per cent for residents of backward areas, 4 per cent of Pahari-speaking people, 4 per cent for persons with disabilities, 10 per cent for EWS, among others.

  • The Administrative Council (chaired by Lieutenant Governor) has directed the Social Welfare Department to redraw the reservation roster.


For claiming the benefit, a person

  1. must be a member of Pahari clan, community or tribe having distinct cultural, ethnic and linguistic identity;
  2. must be speaking Pahari language and Pahari must be his mother tongue.
  3. An Aadhaar Card or Domicile Certificate is required to avail the benefit.

Source: Indian Express

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GS-III : Miscellaneous
Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) System

Syllabus subtopic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc

Prelims and Mains focus: about A-CDM and its benefits

News: Guwahati has become the eighth Indian airport to implement an Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) system.

About A-CDM

  • The A­CDM system, uses aircraft expected time of arrival, runway­in­use and runway handling capacity among other factors to determine the aircraft arrival and departure sequence.

  • The system improves the performance of airport operations and ensures a smooth arrival and departure sequence for airlines.

  • Airport CDM (A-CDM) is about partners (airport operators, aircraft operators/ground handlers, ATC and the Network Operations) working together more efficiently and transparently in the way they work and share data. Efficiency of the Air Transport System is highly dependent on traffic predictability.

  • The Airport CDM project aims to improve the overall efficiency of operations at an airport, with a particular focus on the aircraft turn-round and pre-departure sequencing process.

  • One of the main outputs of the CDM process will be more accurate Target Take Off Times which can be used to improve en route and sector planning. This is being achieved through implementation of a full set of Departure Planning Information messages (DPIs) sent to Network Operations. The advantages for the network will start to multiply as more and more airports implement A-CDM.

Possible benifits of A-CDM:

  1. Safety
  2. Cost efficiency
  3. Reduction of delay through improved airport operations and optimal en-route
  4. Capacity
  5. Environmental impact of aviation and fuel burn
  6. Predictability
  7. On-time performance
  8. Reduce ground movement costs
  9. Use of ground handling resources
  10. Use of stands, gates and terminals
  11. Use of the airport infrastructure and reduce congestion
  12. Flexible pre-departure planning
  13. Reduce apron and taxiway congestion

Source: The Hindu

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Pollution by dairy farms

Syllabus subtopic: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the issue and the directions given by NGT; about various categories of industries; about NGT; CPCB

News: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed pollution control boards of all States to obtain information from all local bodies pertaining to pollution caused by dairy farms and submit relevant data to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).


The directions came when the green panel was hearing a set of pleas seeking remedial action for compliance of environmental norms by the dairies.

Directions given by NGT

  • The State pollution control boards and pollution control committees were directed to furnish factual and action-taken reports to the apex pollution control body by April 2020.

  • Private operators, including cooperative societies or other entities, not falling within the jurisdiction of local bodies, may also furnish the requisite information to the State PCBs within one month.

  • While observing that dairy activities were categorised asorange” category, the NGT said the guidelines prepared by the CPCB need to be revised by specifying that State boards or committees must enforce ‘consent mechanism’ and in particular, follow an appropriate sitting policy in the light of the carrying capacity of the area for commercial dairy activities, having potential for air and water pollution.

Way ahead

The State PCBs/ PCCs (pollution control committees) may publish an appropriate notice on the subject within two weeks requiring furnishing of information and also adopting all necessary safeguards in the matter.

Various categories of industries

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has developed the criteria of categorization of industrial sectors based on the Pollution Index which is a function of the emissions (air pollutants), effluents (water pollutants), hazardous wastes generated and consumption of resources.

  • The Pollution Index PI of any industrial sector is a number from 0 to 100 and the increasing value of PI denotes the increasing degree of pollution load from the industrial sector.

  • Based on the series of brain storming sessions among CPCB, SPCBs and MoEFCC , the following criteria on ‘Range of Pollution Index ‘for the purpose of categorization of industrial sectors is finalized.

  1. Red category: Industrial Sectors having Pollution Index score of 60 and above.

  1. Orange category: Industrial Sectors having Pollution Index score of 41 to 59

  1. Green category: Industrial Sectors having Pollution Index score of 21 to 40

  1. White category: Industrial Sectors having Pollution Index score incl.& upto 20

Source: The Hindu

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GS-III : Economic Issues Agriculture
20th Livestock Census

Syllabus subtopic: Economics of Animal-Rearing.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the key findings; about livestock in india and challenges

News: The number of stray cattle in the country has marginally come down to 50.22 lakh in 2019 from 51.88 lakh in 2012 — a decline of 3.2 per cent — according to the latest data of the 20th Livestock Census released by the Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries.


  • On October 16 last year, the ministry had released provisional figures of the 20th Livestock Census. However, at that point, the number of stray cattle was not known. The government had started collecting information about stray cattle from the 19th Livestock Census in 2012.

  • According to the 20th Livestock Census, the information on the approximate number of stray cattle was collected from a single source in the village or ward such as sarpanch or a panchayat member or a patwari.

Key findings

  • The number of stray cattle is additional to the total cattle population in the country, about 19.34 crore in 2019 — 1.3 per cent up from 19 crore in 2012.

  • While the data shows a decline at the national level, there is substantial increase in stray cattle population in states such as Uttar Pradesh (17.34 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (95 per cent), Rajasthan (34.48 per cent), Gujarat (17.59 per cent), Chhattisgarh (33.93 per cent) and Punjab (38.69 per cent) in 2019 in comparison to 2012.

  • However, in some states, a sharp decline has been registered in the stray cattle population. These include Odisha (86.68 per cent decline), West Bengal (73.59 per cent), Bihar (66.54 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (23.95 per cent).

  • West Bengal has the highest number of cattle — 190 lakh in 2019 from 165 lakh in 2012. Bengal has become the state with the largest cattle population during the tenure of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

  • In the same period, the number of cattle has also gone up in other eastern states, such as Bihar (from 122 lakh to 153 lakh) and Jharkhand (from 8.7 lakh to 112 lakh).

Case of Uttar Pradesh

  • The sharp increase in the number of stray cattle in Uttar Pradesh shows that efforts to control the problem have not yielded desired results.

  • The state government had imposed special duty on liquor in its last budget to raise Rs 165 crore for maintenance of stray cattle.

  • It also allocated Rs 247.60 crore for construction of gaushalas (cow shelters) in rural areas and Rs 200 crore for Kanha Gaushalas to house the stray animals in urban areas. But the increase in the stray cattle population shows no relief on ground.

Importance of livestock in poverty alleviation:

  • Livestock rearing is a key livelihood and risk mitigation strategy for small and marginal farmers, particularly across the rain-fed regions of India.

  • Share in agricultural GDP: Livestock products comprised 32 per cent of the total value of agriculture and allied activities in 2006-07 which was a noticeable increase from 27 per cent in 1999-2000 and from 1980-81 when it represented 14 per cent of the agricultural gross domestic product.

Why does it require special attention?

  • Livestock rearing at the household level is largely a women-led activity, and therefore income from livestock rearing and decisions related to management of livestock within the household are primarily taken by women.

  • Livestock rearing, particularly in the rain-fed regions of the country, is also emerging as a key risk mitigation strategy for the poorest. They face increasingly uncertain and erratic weather conditions which negatively impact crop productivity and wage labour in the agriculture sector.


  • Although livestock products make important contributions to food security and poverty reduction for many low-income rural families, the policy and institutional framework has failed to serve the needs of these poorest households and to get them onto the conveyor belt of development.
  • A lack of public services in animal health that reach out to the poorest in rural areas and a failure to link small holder livestock keepers to better paying markets.
  • The institutional and policy frameworks tend to support intensive and commercial livestock rearing, both in the provision of services and also in facilitating access to markets.
  • Livestock producers, including traditional pastoralists and smallholders, are both victims of natural resource degradation and contributors to it.
  • Animal health systems have been neglected in many parts and this has led to institutional weaknesses that in turn lead to poor delivery of animal health services and higher risks to livelihoods and human health.

Way forward:

Livestock wealth is much more equitably distributed than wealth associated with land. Thus, when we think of the goal of inclusive growth, we should not forget that from equity and livelihood perspectives, livestock rearing must be at the centre of the stage in poverty alleviation programmes.

Source: Indian Express

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