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Q.1 Consider the following statements about
Nirvik Scheme:
1. It is launched to ease the lending
process and enhance loan availability for
2. It is implemented by Export Credit
Guarantee Corporation of India (ECGC)
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Q.2 Consider the following statements about
“Teaser Loan” that was in news recently:
1. It is a term used for loans that offer
low, fixed interest rates in the initial
few years, but switch to floating rates
2. SBI first introduced it in 2009-10.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3 Consider the following statements about Prenatal
diagnosis tests:
1. Dual Marker and Triple Marker Tests
look at the level of certain hormones
which are ‘markers’ associated with
Down’s Syndrome.
2. The use of Amniocentesis for sex
determination is prohibited by law but
its use for determination of disability in
foetus is allowed.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C, C, C



Security and logistics teams from Washington are expected in Delhi this week to prepare for a possible visit by U.S. President Donald Trump, multiple sources have confirmed to The Hindu.

The visit, which has not yet been announced, would bring Mr. Trump to India a year after he declined an invitation to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, and will go ahead at the end of February as long as dates don’t need to be changed to accommodate the impeachment process in the Senate.

Among the agreements the leaders hope to wrap up is a trade deal that has been pending since November 2018, when talks went into a standstill.

In June 2019, the U.S. cancelled India’s preferential export ‘GSP’ status, and the government hopes Mr. Trump will announce a revocation of that decision during the visit.

India is also expected to announce further investments in the U.S., and a substantial increase in American oil imports. In particular, a major deal on civil aviation is being discussed, officials said.


The Generalized System of Preference is the largest and oldest United States trade preference programme.

The US intended it to promote economic development by eliminating duties on some products it imports from the 120 countries designated beneficiaries.

It was established by the Trade Act of 1974. According to the website of the US Trade Representative the GSP helps spur sustainable development in beneficiary countries by helping them increase and diversify their trade with the US.

US believes that moving GSP imports from the docks to US consumers, farmers and manufacturers supports tens of thousands of jobs in the US.

The other benefit is that GSP boosts American competitiveness by reducing the costs of imported inputs used by US companies to manufacture goods in the United States.

The Indian export industry may not feel the pinch of the GSP removal for India by the US.




Kerala became the first State to join citizens across the country to challenge in the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, which fast-tracks grant of citizenship on the basis of religion.

The State has approached the Supreme Court nearly 15 days after the Assembly unanimously requested the Centre to abrogate the law on December 31, 2019.

The original suit has been filed under Article 131 of the Constitution. The SC has “original” jurisdiction in disputes between States or the Centre and State(s). The Article allows it to directly take cognisance of such a dispute.

Kerala said in its suit that it would be compelled under Article 256 to comply with the CAA, which was “manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, irrational and violative of fundamental rights”.

However, there have been two conflicting judgments from the SC by coordinate Benches on whether a State can file an original suit under Article 131 to challenge the constitutionality of a central law.

The first judgment reported in 2012 — State of Madhya Pradesh vs Union of India — held that States cannot challenge a Central law under Article 131.

The second judgment — State of Jharkhand vs State of Bihar — took the opposite view in 2015 and referred the question of law to a larger Bench of the Supreme Court for final determination.

The Centre may object to the maintainability of the Kerala suit when it comes up for hearing.


Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute

(a) between the Government of India and one or more States; or
(b) between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
(c) between two or more States, if and in so far as the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends
Obligation of States and the Union:  The executive power of every State shall be so exercised as to ensure compliance with the laws made by Parliament and any existing laws which apply in that State, and the executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of such directions to a State as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose
NEWS: A four-member team of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) visited Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) on Tuesday and recorded statements of students who were injured or witnessed police brutality inside the university library on December 15.
Before taking written statements, the team interacted with all the students, said a university official. The students then narrated the events of the police action.


India, enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, with a view to bring about greater accountability and strengthen the dominion of human rights in the country. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was established on October 12, 1993.

NHRC was constituted under Section 3 of the 1993 Act .

It is autonomous i.e. it has been created by an Act of Parliament.

It has powers of a civil court.

The Chairperson and the Members of the Commission are appointed by the President of India, on the recommendations of a Committee consisting of:

The Prime Minister (chairperson)

The Home Minister

The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha

The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha

The Speaker of the Lok Sabha

The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha

The president can remove the chairman or any member from the office under certain circumstances.


NHRC can only make recommendations, without the power to enforce decisions. This lack of authority to ensure compliance can lead to outright rejection of its decision too.

It is often viewed as a post-retirement destinations for judges, police officers and bureaucrats with political clout. Bureaucratic functioning, inadequacy of funds also hamper the working of the commission.

Under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, human rights commissions cannot investigate an event if the complaint was made more than one year after the incident. Therefore, a large number of genuine grievances go unaddressed.



Following a plea alleging encroachment of waterbodies in Ghaziabad, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has constituted a joint committee and sought a factual status report within one month.

A Bench headed by NGT Chief Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that the joint committee will comprise officials from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (UPPCB).



  1. National Green Tribunal was formed under the National Green Tribunal Act of 2010. Act was enacted under the India’s constitutional provision of Article 21 which assures the citizens of India the right to healthy environment.
  2. Tribunal has been created for effective and expeditious disposal of the cases relating to environmental protection and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.
  3. Tribunal is mandated to make endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals filing within 6 months of the filing of the same.
  4. Chairman of the tribunal must be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or judge of the Supreme Court of India. 
  5. The tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice. 
  6. New Delhi is the principle place of sitting of the tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkatta and Chennai are other four places of sitting of the tribunal.
  7. Present NGT Chairperson is Justice (Retired) Adarsh Kumar Goel.



Assam Health and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, has been implemented to address the unresolved issues of the Assam Accord of 1985.

The government had no intention to go against the spirit of the accord, he said at a special session of the Assembly on Monday.

The accord was violated when a provision was added that the names of the 1967-1971 stream of foreigners would be kept out of the electoral rolls for 10 years and later regularised. The fear that the CAA would bring in millions of people needed to be dispelled, he said.

AASU chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharyya said, “Assam cannot be burdened with even one illegal migrant from 1971 to 2014. Clause 6 of the Accord was thought of for providing constitutional safeguards to the indigenous people.”


  • The Assam Accordwas a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement.
  • It was signed in the presence of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhiin New Delhi on 15 August 1985. It followed a six-year agitation that started in 1979. Led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), the protestors demanded the identification and deportation of all illegal foreigners – predominantly Bangladeshi immigrants.
  • According to the Assam Accord, the Government of India agreed to secure the international border against future infiltration by the “erection of physical barriers like walls, barbed wire fencing and other obstacles at appropriate places” and deploying a patrol by security forces on land and river routes all along the international Bangladesh-India border.
  • The accord brought an end to the Assam Movementand paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government in the state of Assam soon after.



The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the Andhra Pradesh government two weeks to respond with complete details on a plea made by Odisha on the construction of the Indirasagar Polavaram multi-purpose project.

Odisha has raised concerns about the project and the conduct of the Centre in not informing the State on the issue of ‘stop work order’ being kept in abeyance periodically leading to the unhindered continuation of the project work.


Polavaram project is an underconstruction multi-purpose irrigation project on the Godavari River in the West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh. The project has been accorded national project status by the Union Government of India and will be the last to be accorded the status.

Largest Peninsular river system 1465 km long

Also called as the Dakshin Ganga

Rises in Nashik district of Maharashtra

Flows through Maharashtra, Telangana, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.

Tributaries:  Penganga, Indravati, Paranhita and Manjra.




The fear of demolition of their houses is hanging over the residents with the Department of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) submitting the final list of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violations in Kozhikode district on Tuesday.

Nearly 4,000 CRZ violations, including 1,657 within Kozhikode Corporation limits, have been identified in the district based on a consolidated report from 35 local bodies as on January 14, 2020.


  • Coastal stretches of seas, bays, estuaries, creeks, rivers, and backwaters were declared as CRZs under coastal zone regulation notification in 1991.
  • CRZs have been classified into 4 zones for the purpose of regulation:
    • CRZ-I:includes ecologically sensitive areas, where no construction is allowed except activities for atomic power plants, defense.
    • CRZ-II:includes designated urban areas that are substantially built up. Construction activities are allowed on the landward side only.
    • CRZ-III:includes relatively undisturbed areas, mainly rural areas. No new construction of buildings allowed in this zone except repairing of the existing ones. However, constructions of dwelling units in the plot area lying between 200-500m of the high tide line is allowed.
    • CRZ-IV:includes the water area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 nautical miles seaward. Except for fishing and related activities, all actions impugning on the sea and tidal water will be regulated in this zone.



The Environment Ministry has relaxed Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules that restrict construction near beaches to help States construct infrastructure and enable them to receive ‘Blue Flag’ certification.

Last year, the Ministry selected 13 beaches in India to vie for the certificate. This is an international recognition conferred on beaches that meet certain criteria of cleanliness and environmental propriety.

The earmarked beaches are — Ghoghala beach (Diu), Shivrajpur beach (Gujarat), Bhogave beach (Maharashtra), Padubidri and Kasarkod beaches (Karnataka), Kappad beach (Kerala), Kovalam beach (Tamil Nadu), Eden beach (Puducherry), Rushikonda beach (Andhra Pradesh), Miramar beach (Goa), Golden beach (Odisha), Radhanagar beach (Andaman & Nicobar Islands) and Bangaram beach (Lakshadweep).


The Blue Flag programme for beaches and marinas is run by the international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education). It started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987, and in areas outside Europe since 2001, when South Africa joined.

Japan and South Korea are the only countries in South and southeastern Asia to have Blue Flag beaches. Spain tops the list with 566 such beaches; Greece and France follow with 515 and 395, respectively.

There are nearly 33 criteria that must be met to qualify for a Blue Flag certification, such as the water meeting certain standards such as waste disposal facilities, disabled-friendly facilities, first aid equipment and no access to pets in the main areas of the beach. Some criteria are voluntary and some compulsory.



The nine-judge Supreme Court Bench will pronounce on the nature of religious freedom under the Constitution.

The Bench, headed by the Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde, has asked lawyers to “re-frame” the issues, or add to them, following submissions that the questions framed by a Bench of five judges were too broad.

Further, the CJI has clarified that the Court will not be deciding the petitions seeking a review of the verdict in the Sabarimala temple case.

Supreme Court will decide questions of law on women’s entry into mosques/temples, genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohras, entry of Parsi women who marry outside the community into the fire temple. It will not decide on the individual facts of each case.


It would be unwise if the examination of every discriminatory practice becomes a fresh treatise on Articles 25 and 26, instead of being subjected to a simple test whether the particular practice is protected by the freedom of religion, or can be curbed on the grounds of “public order, morality and health”.

That the strength of the Bench was fixed at nine may indicate that the court is leaving scope for revisiting the 1954 seven-judge Bench decision in the Shirur Mutt case, holding that religious denominations had the autonomy to decide what religious practices were essential to them. A reconsideration of this “essentiality doctrine” will be useful only if it is a means to rid the court of the burden of entering the theological thicket.



Author highlights that metros have been deprived of empowered Mayors who can raise efficiency, productivity and liveability. Mayors in many global cities go on to lead their country, which possibly explains why they have been reduced to obscure, ceremonial figures by national parties in India.

The Economic Survey of 2017-18 notes that a third of the population now lives in urban areas which produce three-fifths of the GDP. But India’s overflowing cities lack capacity, infrastructure and leadership. The Survey acknowledges this, attributing it to the absence of a single city government in charge, and low spending on infrastructure. State governments amass the large economic output from urban agglomerations, but are averse to a strong Mayoral system.

Chief Ministers see a potential threat from a charismatic and empowered Mayor with progressive policies. Some of them have used the excuse of poor performance of urban local bodies as a justification to replace direct election of Mayors with an indirect system. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government in Tamil Nadu issued an ordinance last year to amend the law, and remove any possibility of prominent Opposition politicians becoming the face of any big city.


In some States, elections to urban local bodies have not been held for years, defeating the lofty goal of decentralised governance. Tamil Nadu is a prominent example. The idea of giving more authority to the third tier of governance has suffered serious stunting, in spite of the 74th Constitution Amendment Act of 1992 identifying 18 local level functions to be devolved, including planning for economic and social development, regulation of land, construction of buildings, urban planning and public health.

The average of subjects devolved in all these years is nine, and does not include the major municipal services which continue to be run by parastatal authorities that answer to State governments. Newer devices used to bypass local bodies and priorities are styled as special schemes, such as urban renewal and smart cities, directly supervised by the Central government and partnered by State governments.

Empowered Mayors, such as those in New York, Paris, London or even Shanghai, could steal the limelight through spectacular successes, leaving Chief Ministers and legislators with little direct connect with urban voters.


The Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2017 covering 23 cities across 20 States published by Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy found 33% of medium and large cities with a provision for directly-elected Mayors, but none in the mega cities. A tenure of five years for Mayors is available only in a fifth of the biggest cities, and half of urban Indians live in cities where Mayors can be in office for just two-and-a-half years, ASICS found.


In the coming decade, progress on Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the UN Habitat New Urban Agenda will come under close international scrutiny. India’s cities need a new deal, one that is focused on development. Only elected, empowered and accountable Mayors can deliver on that.


In terms of what children learn in school, one of the big debates is whether children in private schools perform better than those in government schools. In the Indian context, the consensus seems to be that a large proportion of the differences in the learning levels of children enrolled in private and government schools can be attributed to “home factors”.

And, while the private school effect remains positive, even after taking into account the child’s home environment, learning outcomes in private schools are nowhere near grade competency.

Let us look at the case of language. According to the grade 1 curriculum, children are supposed to be able to identify and read words and simple sentences. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019, 21% children in grade one of government schools could read words compared to 46.7% in private schools — an advantage of 122%. How is this possible? Is this a fair comparison? Are we comparing apples with apples? The answer is clearly no.

First, the age distribution in grade one of government schools is very different from that in private schools. The Right to Education and national policy mandates that children enter grade one at age six. However, 26.1% children in grade one of government schools are four or five years old compared to 15.7% in private schools. At the other end of the spectrum, 30.4% children in grade one of government schools are seven-eight years old compared to 45.4% in private schools. Therefore, comparing learning levels in grade one between government and private schools becomes problematic.

Second, it is well known that children who go to private schools come from relatively affluent backgrounds. They also tend to have more educated parents. This affords them certain advantages which are not available to children who are from less advantaged families and are more likely to attend government schools. For instance, 30% of government school grade one children, in the ASER 2019 sample, had mothers who had never been to school compared to only 12% of grade one private school children. Further, 27.3% of grade one children in private schools had private tutors compared to 19.5% in government schools.

Once we take into account all these factors — age distribution in grade one, home factors such as affluence, mother’s education, home learning environment, and some baseline abilities that children enter grade one with, private schools still have a learning advantage.


India has a huge investment in its early childhood programme, administered through 1.2 million anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme. The findings of ASER 2019 make a clear case for strengthening these early childhood education centres so that they implement appropriate “school-readiness” activities. A case can also be made for streamlining the curriculum at the pre-school stage so that all pre-schools focus on activities that build cognitive and early literacy and numeracy skills. These will aid further learning.


Consumer Price Index has risen to 7.35% in the month of December.

REASON: Rise in prices of food commodities in general, and the astronomical rise in the price of onions, in particular.


The disturbing December print has set off fears over whether India is entering a period of slow growth accompanied by high inflation, in other words, stagflation.

First, the headline inflation number is driven mainly by food inflation at 14.12% — it was 10.01% in November and -2.65% in December 2018.

While onion was the prime villain pushing up price inflation in vegetables to a huge 60.50% compared to December 2018, prices of other food items such as meat and fish (up 9.57%), milk (up 4.22%), eggs (up 8.79%) and some pulses were also on the upswing.

An analysis by State Bank of India’s research team shows that minus the increase in prices of onion, potato and ginger, headline CPI inflation would be just 4.48%. Second, core inflation, which is the one that should be of concern, has only inched up marginally from 3.5% in November to 3.7% in December.


The sharp jump in the CPI has queered the pitch for the Reserve Bank of India’s monetary policy review in February. The central bank stood pat on rates in the December policy precisely due to fears of inflation and had even revised upwards its inflation projection for the second half of the fiscal to 4.7-5.1%. The December print is way above the monetary policy committee’s (MPC) mandated limit of 6% (4% plus 2%) which means that a rate cut is pretty much off the table for now.

Yet, with growth sagging, there is pressure on the central bank to cut rates at least one more time to stimulate growth. It would be interesting to watch the deliberations of the MPC in February.


Meanwhile, the government should engage all levers to address the supply-side issues that are behind the rise in food inflation. A calming down of food prices will help the bank do what the government and markets want — lower rates.





On November 16, 2019, the Central Bureau of Investigation raided Amnesty International’s offices in Bengaluru and Delhi based on allegations that the NGO had violated provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, and of the Indian Penal Code. Amnesty has been vocal about human rights abuses, notably in Jammu and Kashmir and Assam.


The raid is not an isolated incident but part of a pattern of harassment of NGOs in India. In early 2019, Greenpeace had to shut two offices in India and reduce its staff. Since 2015, Greenpeace India has been barred from receiving foreign donations. In July 2019, there were raids in the offices of the Lawyers Collective. In 2019 alone, more than 1,800 NGOs lost their licence to receive foreign funding.


The contribution of NGOs to human rights and public awareness is significant in India. The recognition of the rights of homosexuals and transgender people, for instance, would have been unimaginable without the sustained effort of civil society organisations. Likewise, developments in the public provision of health and education are unlikely to come about without pressure by NGOs.

Most NGOs are neither politically powerful nor have great financial capacity. For example, small environmental or tribal rights groups protesting against environmental violations by multinational companies cannot fight back against companies that use their resources — profits from elsewhere — for public relations, campaigning, and advertisement to resist the protests. Thus there is a power imbalance in this struggle, exacerbated by financial restraints on organisations.


FCRA prohibits receipt of foreign contribution “for any activities detrimental to the national interest”. The Act specifies that NGOs require the government’s permission to receive funding from abroad. The government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state”. This condition is manifestly overbroad. There is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”. Consequently, a government could construe any disagreement with, or criticism of, any of its policies as being against public interest.


The restrictions on NGO have serious consequences on both the rights to free speech and freedom of association under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(c) of the Constitution. The freedom is based on the idea that individuals can form voluntary groups and pursue various interests. It is a form of collective expression and thought. The Supreme Court has held that this right includes the right to continued sustenance of the association, without unreasonable restraint (Damyanti Naranga v. Union of India, 1971).

The foreign funding prohibition also negates the significance of voluntary, non-profit associations in a democracy. Free speech is valuable not because everyone agrees, but because it enables a culture of dissent, deliberation, and debate.


Democracy requires critics and civil society. This is why invoking the FCRA to curb the work of NGOs is deeply troubling. In a democracy, criticism should be welcomed, not repressed. No government should ever be able to choose its own critics.




Only 16% of children in Class 1 in 26 surveyed rural districts can read text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognise letters, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019, released by NGO Pratham on Tuesday.

Only 41% of these children could recognise two digit numbers.

However, ASER found that the solution is not to spend longer hours teaching children the 3Rs. Counter-intuitively, the report argues that a focus on cognitive skills rather than subject learning in the early years can make a big difference to basic literacy and numeracy abilities.

The survey shows that among Class 1 children who could correctly do none or only one of the tasks requiring cognitive skills, about 14% could read words, while 19% could do single digit addition. However, among children who could correctly do all three cognitive tasks, 52% could read words, and 63% could solve the math problem.

Underage children

The report says that “permitting underage children into primary grades puts them at a learning disadvantage which is difficult to overcome.” The ASER surveyors found that a primary classroom could include students from a range of age-groups, skewing towards younger children in government schools. More than a quarter of Class 1 students in government schools are only 4 or 5 years old, younger than the recommended age. The ASER data shows that these children struggle more than others in all skills.

Global research shows that 90% of brain growth occurs by age 5, meaning that the quality of early childhood education has a crucial impact on the development and schooling of a child.

The ASER report shows that a large number of factors determine the quality of education received at this stage, including the child’s home background, especially the mother’s education level; the type of school, and the child’s age in Class 1.



The Reserve Bank of India’s principal adviser in the monetary policy department, Janak Raj, is likely to be the third internal member of the central bank in the monetary policy committee (MPC), which sets interest rates.

This is because the government has elevated Michael Patra, the executive director of the monetary policy department, as deputy governor. Mr. Patra was one of the RBI’s internal members of MPC, apart from Governor Shaktikanta Das and B.P. Kanungo, the Deputy Governor in charge of the monetary policy. The next meeting of the monetary policy committee is scheduled for early February.

According to the law, by default, the Governor and the Deputy Governor in-charge of monetary policy are the two RBI internal members of MPC. The law says that the third member could be any RBI officer. Mr. Patra, an economist, is likely to get the monetary policy department and would hence continue as an MPC member.

The MPC consists of six members, of which three are RBI’s internal members and three are external experts.

Among the four deputy governors of RBI, two are promoted from within the ranks of RBI. Of the remaining two, one is a commercial banker and another, an economist.


  • Decisions regarding Monetary Policy are taken by Monetary Policy Committee.
  • RBI Act has been amended by Finance Act 2016 to provide for STATUTORY and institutionalized framework for a MONETARY POLICY COMMITTEE for maintaining price stability while keeping in mind the objective of growth.
  • MPC is entrusted with the task of setting benchmark policy rate (repo rate) required to contain inflation within the specified target level.
  • Meeting of MPC shall be held at least four times a year.
  • MPC has six members: three from the RBI (Governor of RBI as Chairperson, Deputy Governor of RBI in charge of Monetary Policy, One Officer of the RBI to be nominated by the Central Board) and three members appointed by Central Government.
  • Three members appointed by the Central Government holds office for period of four years.
  • Government of India in consultation with RBI has published inflation target at 4(+-2)%.




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