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Why Nitish could play it safe in 2020 polls



Nitish Kumar

Recently, a big hoarding was prominently displayed outside the Janata Dal (United) office in Patna saying, ‘Kyun Karen Vichar, Thike to Hain Nitish Kumar?’

It was not in accordance with the JD(U)’s stand till recently where it glorified its leader, Nitish Kumar, and has presented him as a leader larger than life. So, what has changed in Bihar which has forced Nitish Kumar and his party, the JD(U) to adopt a defensive strategy more than a year before the upcoming assembly elections?

To understand why it has adopted a defensive strategy now, we need to first understand the factors and the scenarios which had helped Nitish Kumar take centre-stage in Bihar politics and overtime become the unquestionable power centre in the state. And then look at the sequence of events in the last few years which has reduced his confidence so much that he has been forced to take a defensive strategy for the upcoming 2020 assembly election in the state.

It’s a fact that Nitish Kumar has never been a mass leader and, in spite of all efforts, he has never been able to build strong cadre for his party in the state. Yet, he has not only reached the top in state politics but has consistently maintained his position at the top for one-and-a-half-decades now. If he doesn’t have mass following then how he could manage to defeat a true mass leader, Lalu Prasad, and how could he manage to keep the BJP, a strong cadre-based party on his side and on his conditions. Further how he has managed to consistently get support of the electorate in Bihar.

To understand all this we need to understand the political and social history of Bihar and the sequence of events in state politics over the last three decades. After independence, for the first five decades, the politics and society of Bihar were completely dominated by the upper castes. In 1991, Lalu Prasad broke this dominance and established himself as a leader of the poor, backward classes and minorities. He was largely popular in his first term, but in the second term his government for the first two years and then the Rabri Devi government for the rest of the term were marred by large-scale corruption charges, serious law and order problems and favoritism.

Society and state the government were dominated by the Yadavs, and the larger non-Yadav backward castes started feeling upset and uneasy. They didn’t want the Lalu Prasad regime to continue, but they were equally reluctant to support the BJP, which was regarded as an upper caste party. The Congress party had become irrelevant.

The BJP, which had after the downfall of the Congress party emerged strongly in the politics of the state, was struck at some point – it had brought the majority of the upper castes over to its side but it was not able to connect with the politically significant backward castes and the Muslims were against it anyway. So, it had clear realization that it won’t be able to challenge Lalu Prasad of its own in the foreseen future. Hence, when a few MPs of the erstwhile Janata Dal (RJD) broke away to form the Samata Party under the leadership of George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar, the BJP offered unconditional support to it.

Then, after the 2000 assembly elections, when the NDA got an opportunity to form the government, the BJP offered the chief minister’s post to Nitish Kumar even though his Samata party had only 34 MLAs, much less than the BJP’s 67. It was a strategic move by the BJP, and it worked for it as well as Nitish Kumar. The non-Yadav backward and scheduled castes accepted Nitish Kumar (an OBC)-led NDA as an option. He was acceptable to the upper castes as well as he was in alliance with the BJP and his image was of an honest and moderate leader. For many of the Muslims, who were as uneasy as many others in the Lalu-Rabri regime, found a credible option in Nitish Kumar due to his secular and honest credentials. With all such changes in the political-social dynamics of Bihar, the NDA won the 2005 assembly election with a thundering majority under Nitish Kumar’s leadership. Then onwards politics of Bihar has been revolving around Nitish Kumar.

So, the two factors which worked for Nitish Kumar were – the overall condition of hopelessness in Bihar during the last few years of the Lalu-Rabri regime and Nitish Kumar’s acceptability by the widely divided society of Bihar. Over time both the factors have diminished to a large extent more so in last five years – and this has brought down the stature of Nitish Kumar considerably in the politics of Bihar. The last three major elections held in Bihar – the 2014 general election, 2015 assembly election and the 2019 general election – has especial significance in this regard, the three elections combined together have brought major change in the political dynamics of Bihar, which was actually so favorable for Nitish Kumar till before the 2014 general election.

Let’s look at the three elections in the context of what change each one of these have brought in the political dynamics of Bihar. Shortly before the 2014 general election, the JD(U) came out of the NDA protesting against the BJP’s intent to declare Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election. It was the first instance when the JD(U) was contesting an election without the BJP or any major party on its side. When the results were out, it was JD(U) which registered losses. It lost 18 of its existing seats, it could win only two seats and JD(U) candidates lost their deposit in 23 out of 38 seats they contested. The RJD and the Congress more or less maintained their vote share and tally. The BJP-led NDA won 32 out of the 40 seats in the state.

At the national level, the BJP got a majority of its own and the NDA tally was much higher. Modi became the Prime Pinister of India. Upset with these results, Nitish Kumar joined hands with Lalu Prasad, and both together got a massive mandate in the 2015 assembly election. This election revived Lalu Prasad and his party, RJD, in Bihar politics. The RJD won more seats than the JD(U) and its vote percentage was also higher than JD(U). Very soon, Nitish Kumar realized that he would lose political ground to Lalu Prasad and returned to the NDA fold.

The NDA fought the 2019 general election in the name of Narendra Modi everywhere in India and Bihar was not an exception. The NDA swept Bihar in this election winning 39 out of 40 seats and the credit was largely given to Narendra Modi and not Nitish Kumar.

Today’s Bihar is not as widely divided on caste lines as it was a decade back, and over time the other two major parties which were distant poles in the caste ridden politics of Bihar – the BJP and the RJD – have been able to gain acceptability from a wider section of social and political groups. Therefore, Nitish Kumar no more carries the advantage of being the only acceptable political option for different social and political groups in the state.

The BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has been able to connect to the larger OBC, EBC classes everywhere in India and Bihar is definitely not an exception. In last few years, it has been able to develop and bring forward the leaders from the backward classes who have an appeal among the OBC and the EBC classes to such a level that they can pose a challenge to the dominance of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar on backward class politics in the state. The RJD, under its new young leadership, is not only able to consolidate its core Yadav-Muslim support base but expand it beyond that. With the addition of new caste based parties – RLSP of Upendra Kushwaha, HAM of Jitan Ram Manjhi and VIP of Mukesh Sahni, a backward class centered or caste-based politics will not work for any party.

Therefore, every party wants to ensure it is acceptable to different sections of the society. Bihar has come out of the state of hopelessness, and the appetite for development and expectations from the government has increased manifold and Nitish Kumar hasn’t been able to cope up with this expectation for quite some time now. Everyone agrees that Nitish Kumar has brought Bihar to a decent state from a condition which looked completely hopeless to many – the law and order in the state has improved, there is better road connectivity and power supply, and there has been some hiring by government departments. But people feel that they have rewarded him enough for all this, and now expectations are clearly much more than what is getting delivered on the ground. There is also a feeling that Nitish Kumar is taking the electorate for granted, assuming that the people of Bihar have no option and this is based on facts.

The inability to root out encephalitis in Muzaffarpur has been worrisome. It caused deaths of hundreds of children, and each time the government appeared ill prepared to deal with the crisis. This was true of last time as well – the government was deemed irresponsible. Recent rains in the state for just two days created a flood-like situation in many cities including the capital Patna. And when Nitish Kumar termed it a natural disaster instead of taking responsibility for it, it again didn’t go down well with the people of Bihar who are not experiencing the ‘sushasan’ (good governance) which they expect from the government of their ‘Sushasan Babu’.

In spite of tall claims of development by the Nitish Kumar government, many are forced to leave Bihar and go to other states in search of jobs. Those doing so include the educated, skilled and non-skilled. This has been so for decades and there has been no considerable improvement during Nitish Kumar’s regime. Regardless of huge talent and cheap manpower available in the state, the Nitish Kumar government has not been able to convince industries to invest in the state. A similar situation prevails in the education sector. In last one decade, the number of institutes offering professional courses have increased, but still every year a large number of students have to go to other states for education.

To conclude, the two factors which helped Nitish Kumar emerge and dominate Bihar politics are no longer relevant – Bihar has moved much ahead from the state of hopelessness it once wallowed in and there is now high expectation from the government, which his government is not able to cope up with. And with the changing political social dynamics, Nitish Kumar has lost the edge of being the only acceptable political option for different sections of the society in the state. He has clear realization of both these facts, and so in such scenario – for the upcoming 2020 assembly election, the JD(U) seems to be going safe, and instead of making its last five-year work a poll issue, it is asking the electorate to trust the time-tested Nitish Kumar over others.

(Rahul Vatsa is a researcher. The views expressed are personal)


Singh Bros were alter egos acting with impunity




Shivinder Mohan Singh, Malvinder Mohan Singh,

New Delhi, Oct 20 : How were the Singh Bros — Malvinder Mohan Singh (MMS) and Shivinder Mohan Singh (SMS) — the centrifugal forces behind the Rs 3,000 crore Religare Group fraud?

Working in conjunction with CEO Sunil Godhwani (SG), the troika stripped Religare Finvest (RFL) and other group companies bare through a craftily structured construct which allowed them to fly under the radar and even operate with impunity to avoid detailed regulatory supervision of the RBI.

It is pertinent to mention that at the time the loan was extended, SMS, MMS and SG were fully controlling RFL and were acting as its alter egos. Therefore, it is impossible that the aforesaid transaction was carried out without their knowledge and support. In addition to cheating, SMS, MMS and SG are also liable for the offence of criminal breach of trust since RFL and its shareholders had reposed their trust in the said erstwhile promoters and senior management of the parent entity REL and of RFL.

Since the Board of Directors of RFL was accustomed to the act as per their advice and instructions, they thus exercised deep and pervasive control over it.

In this context, it is pertinent to mention that RFL separately also extended loans cumulatively amounting to Rs 120 crore to Vitobha, Best and Devera and even those loans have not yet been repaid, which is indicative of yet another set of fraudulent transactions intended to siphon off monies and cause wrongful loss to RFL, and its shareholders.

Tara Alloys Ltd admits that a loan amount of Rs 85 crore was disbursed on May 24, 2017 by RFL to it taken as a Short Term Loan (for short “the STL”) which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. Tara alleged that the amount was transferred back to RFL on May 24, 2017 through intermediary companies, allegedly at the behest of RFL to enable to repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears that upon obtaining the loan money from RFL, Tara transferred the same to some other entities and never intended to repay this loan to RFL.

Gurudev Financial Services Pvt. Ltd. admits that the loan amount of Rs 100 crore was disbursed on May 24, 2017 taken as STL, which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. Gurudev submitted that 5th loan amount of Rs 100 crore obtained from RFL was further transferred to intermediary companies, alleged at the behest of RFL to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day.

It appears from the documents annexed that Gurudev transferred the funds received from RFL to some other entities and never intended to repay the loan to RFKL.

Annies Apparel Pvt Ltd also admits that the loan amount of Rs 100 crore was disbursed on February 1, 2017 by RFL to it as a STL, which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. The said loan was to be repayable by Annies to RFL on March 31, 2017. Annnies submits that the loan amount was further transferred to intermediary companies, allegedly at RFL’s behest to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears from documents annexed that the amout has been transferred further by Annnies to other entities and never intended to repay the loan to RFL.

Shri Dham Distributors Pvt Ltd. (earlier known as Abhiruchi Distributors Pvt Ltd) admits that the loan amount of Rs 92.40 crore was disbursed on February 1, 2017 by RFL to it as STL which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. and the loan amount further transferred to intermediary companies, allegedly at the behest of RFL, to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears from documents annexed to the reply that the amount has been transferred further by Shri Dham to other entities and it never intended to repay this loan back to RFL.

One needs to add that the all these aforesaid entities are clearly connected and were acting as one economic unit while internal inquiries point to the fact that they are controlled by the brothers’ stockbroker N.K. Ghoshal and the registered office address of the aforesaid entities is also the same – 2764/17, 2nd floor, Hamilton Road, Mori Gate, North Delhi, Delhi 110006.

The plea adopted by the entities is also identical i.e. funds disbursed by RFL were transferred to intermediary companies to enable a repayment of loans obtained from RFL by other third parties. It is evident from the above that while these entities admit receipt of money and admit that since inception of the transaction(s), they never intended to repay the money back to the complainant company. Instead as intended, they transferred the money to certain intermediary companies. The loan(s) advanced to the aforesaid entities were never repaid, and it appears from their replies that they colluded with other entities and amongst themselves (since they are acting as a single economic unit, controlled by one person) to conspire and abet in the siphoning away of money from RFL, thereby causing a wrongful loss to RFL and its shareholders.

In the present case it appears from their admission that RFL was cheated by the directors/persons controlling these entities, which in addition to its directors as the relevant time is believed to be Ghoshal) and the directors and persons controlling the so-called intermediary companies to which the money was transferred, and allegedly in collusion and conspiracy with the erstwhile promoters and senior management of REL/RFL. While the replies do not clearly mention the name of the intermediary companies, the documents annexed to the reply show transactions with many entities who have taken other loans from RFL under the Corporate Loan Book portfolio.

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India-Turkey relations under Erdogan: Back to square one?




Turkey Pres Erdogan and PM Modi

New Delhi, Oct 20 : Turkey and India, though not the best of friends, have been trying for the past three decades to overcome their differences, and strike a balance in ties, with a little give and take from both sides. But the relation appears to have nosedived of late under the Presidentship of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has taken on the mantle of becoming a “global Islamic leader”.

Bilateral relations have soured to an extent that India has decided to call off an upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Ankara later this month, which would have been his first stand-alone official visit to the nation since taking over in 2014.

Erdogan has been openly cosying up with Pakistan, especially its Prime Minister Imran Khan. His sharp statement on Kashmir at the UN General Assembly last month, where he raked up the UN resolutions, and accused the world of ignoring the plight of “eight million people stuck” in Kashmir, have not gone down well with India.

Turkey has also markedly increased its defence cooperation with Pakistan. Ankara is building four MILGEM medium-sized warships for the Pakistan Navy, in a deal estimated to be worth over $1 billion. According to the deal, two ships would be built in Turkey and the other two in Pakistan under technology transfer. The two countries last year also inked a $1.5 billion deal for the supply of 30 Turkish attack helicopters – in the largest defence deal between the two sides.

Other reasons for the drifting apart of India and Turkey are New Delhi declining to accede to Ankara’s request for backing of its nuclear ambitions, and also Erdogan’s ire at India for allegedly not cracking down on the institutes of his close rival – Fethullah Gulen.

Turkey blames the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation (FETO) for a failed coup to topple Erdogan in 2016. Ankara has alleged that FETO has “infiltrated” India, and Erdogan feels India is not doing enough to curb its activities.

Explaining the Turkey-India relations, Professor A.K. Pasha, Associate Dean, School of International Studies at the JNU, says that Erdogan’s statement on Kashmir at the UNGA came as a “surprise”.

“Over the last 30 years, during almost all presidential visits and other visits from both the countries, we had agreed that Kashmir will be bilaterally resolved through the Simla agreement. But now he has raised the international issue of UN resolutions, which has come as a real surprise,” Pasha told IANS.

“In the last three-four years, we thought they have de-hyphenated their ties between India and Pakistan. But now it appears that they are slowly reviving the military relationship with Pakistan too, which is a matter of concern.”

According to the expert, in the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars, Turkey “supplied substantial military equipment of American origin” to Pakistan. “The Pakistani weapons were largely of American origin, and they needed spare parts, ammunition and other equipment, for which America had given the green signal to pass on to Pakistan,” he said, adding that “the Saudis then had also financed a major part of it”.

However, India has been able to strike a good relationship with Riyadh, especially under Modi.

“The Saudis we have been able to disentangle from other relationships,” he said.

According to Pasha, India had kept the Turks on “short leash” by supporting the Greek Cypriots at the UN. “So it was a quid pro quo, give and take — that we will not raise the invasion and occupation by Turkey of northern Cyprus, and Turkey would not raise the Kashmir issue at the international forums.”

Even when Turkey became a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) contact group on Kashmir along with Saudi Arabia, and other countries, Ankara explained to India that “since there is no voting taking place and resolutions are passed by consensus, so we have explained our position – that bilaterally Kashmir should be resolved between the two countries”.

But the OIC resolution passed by the Kashmir contact group on the sidelines of the UNGA last month was very harsh.

“The contact group not only passed resolutions which were very critical of India during the UN General Assembly, but also they went many steps ahead by voicing concerns about human rights and the need to resolve Kashmir through UN resolutions,” he added.

“So now we are back to square one, despite 30 years of diplomacy, and all the high-level visits there, and several rounds of talks have been held – at the NSA level, the foreign ministers level etc. Both sides had wide consensus on a wide variety of issues, on Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Greece and Cyprus.

“But now suddenly Erdogan has become a sort of global Islamic leader, which has come as a real surprise,” Pasha said, adding that the strain in ties would be diplomatically resolved.

In October last year, Erdogan had declared that “Turkey is the only country that can lead the Muslim world”.

Turkey has a fairly advanced defence industry, which manufactures small arms and ammunition. India was planning to buy two naval ships from Turkey, but the deal has been cancelled over Erdogan’s raking up Kashmir at the UN and other fora.

In terms of bilateral trade too, it lies in India’s favour. “There is nothing much we can import from Turkey. For the last 30 years, we have been buying pulses, cotton, machinery, and other things; but there is very little else we can buy from them. So the balance of trade is in our favour. Turkey has been maintaining that both sides should bring the balance to more acceptable levels.”

“The Turks were a little upset. They felt that the advantages were only accruing to India, and that they were at the receiving end,” which led to building up of animosity.

According to him, Turkey was also keen that both countries should cooperate in the construction industry in the West Asia and North Africa region. “But that did not work out.”

Turkey had two requests of India. It wanted India’s help in the nuclear field. “Turkey has nuclear ambitions, and India has huge thorium reserves in Kerala, and we have a fast breeder reactor which we have developed using thorium. Turkey wanted our technical skills, but the India government declined.”

“And the last straw that broke the camel’s back” was India’s refusal to close down the Gulen-controlled schools and other institutes in India, said Pasha.

The Gulen-controlled schools and institutes are spread across many parts of India, from Delhi, to Bengaluru, to Mumbai. “Some are disguised as schools, some as research centres,” he said.

“The Erdogan government was really upset that we have done nothing. He feels that America is using Gulen, and will bring him back to Turkey and organise a coup against him.”

“These are some of the issues that have led to cancellation of the visit of Modi,” says Pasha.

Gulen, a leading figure in the politics and religious affairs of Turkey, is exiled in Pennsylvania. Erdogen alleges that Gulen played a pivotal role in the attempted coup against his regime in 2016. His government has demanded Gulen’s extradition, but the US State Department has asked for “credible evidence of his terrorist” activity.

Gulen, who lives in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, since he was forced to flee Turkey in 1998 to escape trial for treason against the state, is known to be linked to the CIA.

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Singh bros deliberately imperiled Religare Finvest to siphon off money




Ranbaxy Shivinder Singh

New Delhi, Oct 19 : Singh Brothers — Malvinder Mohan Singh (MMS) and Shivinder Mohan Singh (SMS) — were the lynchpins in the Rs 3,000 crore Religare Group fraud.

The FIR in possession of IANS describes the modus operandi of how the money was siphoned off.

The construct was as follows: The same company was funded with equal or higher amount on the day payment was received from it towards previous dues. In some cases, it appears that ledger entries were done on the earlier dates, but repayments were received on the same day or in a time span of 1-2 days when the same or some other companies were funded.

So, the whole thing assumed a rolling sort of plan, where money came from dues and then repaid elsewhere. It was a calibrated plan which though cut to cut worked like clockwork. Such was the level of chicanery that the two brothers, along with CEO Sunil Godhwani, practised that they deliberately imperiled Religare Finvest so that the money siphoning operation ran without interference.

Here is the architecture: For instance, on June 17, 2009, Rs 34 crore was received in total from Blue Line Finance, GYS Real Estate, Ligare Aviation, Ligare Voyage, Linear Commercial and Sharan Hospitality and on the very same day, Rs 54 crore was funded to Dion Global, Religare Technova Business Intellect and Religare Technova IT Services.

On August 17, 2009, Rs 200 crore was funded and repayment of Rs 100 crore was received from Religare Financial Consultancy. On March 30, 2010, Rs 36 crore was extended to nine companies and on the same day, repayment of Rs 32 crore was received from six other companies except Ligare Aviation from which repayment of Rs 13 crore was received and to which Rs 14 crore was extended on the same day.

On January 31, 2011, repayment of Rs 175 crore was received from Adept Creation, Leon Realtors, SVIIT Softwares and Vectra Pharmaceuticals and on the very next day, i.e. on February 1, 2011, Rs 174 crore was extended to Ligare Aviation, Oscar Investments, Religare Comtrade, RHDFC and RWL Health World.

A copy of the internal report based on inquiries by Religare Finvest, the complainant company, shows the firm’s exposure on account of the Corporate Loan Book (CLB) to the above mentioned related/friendly borrower entities is to the tune of Rs 2,397 crores.

While the aforesaid transactions had been taking place for sometime by way of round-tripping of funds, the loans were purportedly serviced. However, it appears that when the promoters realised that they would lose control over REL and its subsidiaries (including the complainant company), they caused the complainant company to extend loans, but then willfully defaulted on these loans.

Due to the various defaults on account of the CLB, RFL initiated legal proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, against these entities in the NCLT. Before the NCLT, seven of the said borrower companies, which had been extended loans under the CLB, filed replies on solemn affirmation which shockingly is an admission of financial fraud, cheating, criminal breach of trust, money laundering, conspiracy and abetment in respect of the subject unpaid unsecured loans/CLB transactions.

While these entities have intentionally tried to give vague replies, it is clear from all their replies that they knowingly were part of a criminal conspiracy to siphon away funds to the tune of hundreds of crores from the complainant company.

It is believed by the complainant company (on the basis of internal inquiries) that five of these entities — A&A Capital Services Limited (A&A), Shri Dham Distributor Pvt Ltd (earlier known as Abhiruchi Distributors Pvt Ltd), Annies Apparel Pvt Ltd (Annies), Gurudev Financial Services Pvt Ltd (Gurudev), and Tara Alloys Limited (Tara) — are related to and controlled by N.K. Ghoshal, the stockbroker of MMS and SMS.

The following submissions have been made by the aforesaid N.K. Ghoshal controlled entities before the NCLT: A&A Capital Services Pvt Ltd. A&A was used as a medium to transfer monies and was promised a fee for facilitating the transaction. It was an agreed understanding that the transaction money will not be demanded back. It is for the same reason that loans worth several crores were advanced to entities with authorised capital of Rs 5,50,00,000 and paid up capital of Rs 5,49,95,000 without any diligence, security, documentation or security and merely on the basis of a one pager document purportedly called as Memorandum of Understanding. S

Substantial sums were transferred to three entities, i.e., Vitobha Realtors Private Limited (Votobha), Devera Developers Private Limited (Devera) and Best Health Management Pvt Limited (Best), which are entities eventually controlled by SMS and MMS and they act as the alter egos of these companies.

It is evident from the above that A&A admits receipt of money; it admits that since the inception of the transaction, the intention was not to repay the loan to RFL, and conspiracy to divert the loan to third parties which allegedly used the monies to repay their loans to RFL.

As planned in the conspiracy, the loan advanced to A&A was never repaid, and it appears from A&A’s reply that it colluded with entities like Artfice, Best, Vitobha and Devera to siphon away money from RFL, with the intention of never to repay the said unsecured loan and thereby causing a wrongful loss to RFL, which has been deceived and cheated by the directors/persons controlling A&A (which in addition to its directors at the relevant time is believed to be N.K. Ghoshal) and allegedly by and in collusion with persons controlling Artifice, Best, Vitobha and Devera (which in addition to their directors are believed to be SMS and MMS) and persons in control of the management and affairs of RFL, including the erstwhile promoters.

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