Political Economy of Social Exclusion and Inclusion: Case of a bifurcated State in India

Swarna Sadasivam Vepa
swarna.vepa@gmail.com

 Introduction

Social Justice is an important dimension of well being at the individual and group level. Attention should be paid not just to inequality in assets, income, and consumption, but to the associated inequalities in the opportunities, capacities, and life chances of those born under different circumstances. Political voice and political participation are likewise important (Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Report 2009).  Most governments, both national and provincial (state), are preoccupied with the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), stock market performance, investment in mega-infrastructure projects and ensuring the presence of large multinational organized sector companies, to the neglect of efficient public provisioning. Most of the marginalized groups depend upon public services for their survival. They get excluded from welfare gains. Narrow measures at aggregate level are often confused with broader measures of welfare. Flawed measurements result in distorted policy priorities. Though income poverty declines with economic growth and general prosperity, other basic deprivations continue to exist (Radhakrishna R, et al 2013) in India.

Preventing social, economic and political exclusion has been the stated aim of public policy for long in India and elsewhere.  Accordingly, affirmative action has been initiated to protect identified weaker sections of the population. Long term impact of affirmative action is a hotly debated topic in India and elsewhere, some arguing for the continuation and others advocating scrapping of it. Obviously, affirmative action is necessary but not enough to achieve social justice. (Deepak Nayyar 2011). Reiteration of public policy of affirmative action, and politicization around affirmative action for electoral gains, keeps the debate alive, but social exclusion continues.  Caste and religion are strong social group identities in India.  More often, than not, they divide the communities as haves and have nots of economic, social and political advantage. Based on the political economy of public provisioning, welfare gains differ among the social groups. Vast literature exists on disadvantage and discrimination along caste, class, ethnic and gender lines in India.

This paper builds on the existing literature and investigates the significance of social group in explaining some basic wellbeing aspects in terms of quality of life of households in the two successor states, on the eve of bifurcation of the composite state.  The paper fills the gap that exist in the literature in two aspects. First, the study has a special relevance as it refers to a bifurcated state (province) of India, where the economic and social and political dynamics of the successor states have substantially changed after bifurcation. Secondly, the study analyses the wellbeing across the social groups, in household context and the context of district characteristics, with the help of mixed effects maximum likelihood estimation.

The paper is organized into four sections including this introductory section. The second section gives a brief history of social stratification, affirmative action, social conflict, political consolidation, and the perceptions of dominance that lead to a demand for bifurcation of the composite state. This section briefly touches upon the process of political patronage and social exclusion linked to public provisioning and affirmative action. Section three of the paper empirically examines the contribution of social group, land ownership and other household characteristics, to the quality of life represented by household amenities Index. It also examines the contextual effects of district characteristics such as poverty, share of regular employment, urbanization, and political representation of the disadvantaged on the quality of life. Wellbeing data for household amenities pertains to District Level Health Surveys (DLHS-4) of 2012-13. DLHS-4 has a bigger household sample compared to other sources such as National family health Surveys (NFHS-3 and 4) and India Human development surveys (IHDS).  District level information for the study comes from National Sample survey, and Census of India.   Section four concludes the study with the prospects of social inclusion.

Social Groups, Social conflicts, Politics of Affirmative action

There are four officially recognized broad social groups in India, viz., Scheduled castes, Scheduled tribes, Backward castes and others. Others is a residual category mostly consisting of Upper Castes. This grouping cuts across all religions. Poverty and deprivation exist across all social groups, but more so among the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (Sundaram and Tendulkar 2003, Amit Thorat 2010, Ashwani Deshpande 2013).

Political representation

To ensure political representation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, out of 543 constituencies represented in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the parliament, 84 (15.47%) are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 47 (8.66%) are reserved for Scheduled Tribes. Reservations exist at the state level (Assembly constituencies) village level (Panchayats) and urban block level (municipalities). For these reserved seats other social groups are not allowed to contest. Scheduled Castes and scheduled tribes as caste groups assume added importance politically, as they constitute 24% of the electorate that could swing the electoral fortunes of political parties, if they are united. There are instances of political gains by these groups in the composite state, at times, by way of land allocation and enactment of legislations to give budgetary allocations. Political representation and affirmative action did not seem to help much (Francesca R. Jensenius 2015).  Some studies show that affirmative action benefited scheduled tribes in some parts of the country but not scheduled castes (Chin, Aimee, Nishith, Prakash 2011). Others show that affirmative action lead to a redistribution of state resources towards the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, though the welfare gain is not clear (Rohini Pande 2003).

However, politicization and political activism does not mean political power (Anirudh Krishna 2006). The real political power is denied to poor in these groups time and again. They are highly politicized and made captive to the carefully nurtured system of political dependency. Political dependency of the vulnerable sections and poverty groups is perpetuated as most of them depend upon public services provided by the government. The nexus between bureaucracy business interests and political patronage breeds corruption. The poor need to negotiate the access to public services through caste and political dependency and political patronage (Anirudh Krishna 2006, Rajan R 2015, Baradhan P 2009).  Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes face different levels of exploitation by land lords, money lenders and traders of other social groups. They are divided on sub-caste lines and geographically scattered. They lack powerful leadership to make a substantial difference to the electoral outcomes.

Conflict across Social groups

Social conflict between upper castes and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes of violent type involving the entire communities occurred in both the successor states of residual Andhra Pradesh and Telangana at different time points. The Telangana struggle of bonded farm labour against landed gentry of upper castes, and latter against the Nizam of Hyderabad was spear headed by communists between 1946 and 1956 and resulted in the land being distributed to the peasants after the annexation of the princely state of Hyderabad from Nizam in 1956.  Several persons from the oppressed sections lost their lives during the long-drawn struggle (Srinivasulu K, 2002) It was successful to some extent and yet large chunks of farm land in Telangana is still owned by upper castes at present in rural Telangana. In Andhra, political movements soon after independence, helped the upper castes peasants to get land from Zamindars and Brahmins, who were absentee land lords. Green revolution and commercial crops made the upper caste peasants rich and politically powerful and eventually, they became politicians, big landlords, business men, government contractors for infrastructure, film makers, and electronic and print media owners both in Andhra and Telangana (Srinivasulu K, 2002;  Prasad, 2015)

Violent social conflict between the neo-rich landed upper caste and the scheduled castes in the prosperous districts of Andhra region lead to well planned upper caste armed attacks on scheduled caste settlements between 1983-1991 (Srinivasulu K, 2002). It resulted in political consolidation of scheduled castes for assertion of democratic rights and constitutional benefits of affirmative action in Andhra. The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 was necessitated by the continuing predicament and plight of these social groups. The law enforcement was weak in India. Wherever it was enforced it gave protection to scheduled castes.

Politics of affirmative action

A list of the scheduled castes and tribes were mentioned in the article 341 of the Indian constitution and affirmative action is mandated for them.  The British first prepared the list in 1931 and called them scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Since then, number of changes have been made to the list. The affirmative action has also been extended to the scheduled castes and tribes who have converted to Islam or Christianity. Job reservations in public sector and seat reservations in higher education is mandated by the constitution. These disadvantaged groups are also expected to receive other benefit from state (provincial) government schemes, such as land allocation, scholarships, free exclusive residential schools for school going children of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Andhra Pradesh.

This long-term affirmative action for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes has a back lash for similar reservations on caste lines to religious lines from other social groups. The other backward castes category (OBC) of less deprived was created, latter in 1993, and given 27% reservations in jobs and higher education. This has opened the flood gates for reservations caste-wise. The clamour and agitations for inclusion of more castes into the reserved categories continues even today, in different parts of the country, such as Jats in Rajasthan, Patels in Gujarat and Kapus in Andhra Pradesh. The latest development is the creation of 10% reservation for economically weaker sections among the upper castes in 2018. Political parties in power in India create the reserved categories to appease various the social strata. Of the four social groups that are officially recognized in India, backward castes constitute more than fifty of the total population. The backward classes are not as deprived as the Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and they are fast catching up with upper castes in many aspects in the state.  While detailed caste census of all groups has not been published by India till now. It is possible to get the caste wise information from the 2011 census unit level data, but it is not in the public domain till now.

Benefits of affirmative action no doubt reached some of the people in the Scheduled case and scheduled tribe communities, who are educated early on and diversified their livelihoods away from agriculture and menial jobs. Studies show that the affirmative action helped these groups to a limited extent to secure public sector employment in proportion to their population, but gaps exit in other areas, (Deshpande Ashwani 2011). These two groups are mostly disadvantaged in aspects such as basic education, profitable entrepreneurship, remunerative employment etc. (Desai, Sonalde, and Amaresh Dubey 2012, Deshpande, Satish 2006, Deshpande, Ashwani 2011, Deshpande Ashwini and Smriti Sharma, 2013, Cowling, Krycia et.al, 2014).

Sub- class conflicts

Within these respective groups sub castes differ in their access to land, assets, education and political influence. Some castes with educational advantage such as “Malas” of Andhra corner most of the benefits depriving the not so prosperous “Madigas” and other castes who are among scheduled castes. Similarly, among scheduled tribes, “Lambadas” an aggressive backward class migrants’ community that acquired the status of scheduled tribes in Telangana corner the benefits and deprive the native Advasis of Telangana. Thus, there are agitations for proportional representation of each sub castes within scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the composite state of Andhra Pradesh. The legislation enacted for this purpose in 2000 by the state government was declared invalid by the supreme court of India. Marginalized sub-castes of scheduled castes in hilly and forested areas of Andhra and Telangana are the most deprived and exploited and lack basic amenities (CESS, 2017).

On the whole, slow progress of scheduled castes and tribes compared to others in availing job opportunities in non-traditional fields, create an atmosphere of dis-satisfaction and unrest among the youth and it is apparent in recent years in the university campuses and in tribal belts. The composite state of Andhra Pradesh in 2013, adopted a unique landmark legislation to allocate budgetary resources in all sectors to the scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes in proportion to their population under a SC and ST subplan. Both the successor states adopted the same legislation and put in place a mechanism for its implementation.  So far, the fund utilization appears to be poor. The impact is yet to be felt.

Bifurcation and substantially changed socio-economic dynamics

The composite state assembly virtually had no say in the matter of bifurcation, as national parliament had overriding constitutional powers to bifurcate. Bifurcation took place to satisfy the long-standing demand of the people of Telangana and against the wishes of the people of residual Andhra Pradesh. It is the perception of upper caste hegemony and domination of Andhra that lead to bifurcation (Kalpana et.al.,2010).  Caste was a dominant factor in the politics of the composite Andhra Pradesh in both the bifurcated parts -Telangana and residual state of Andhra Pradesh

Economic dynamics

Composite Andhra Pradesh received 50% of its revenue from the city of Hyderabad and the surrounding urban agglomerations. Loss of this region and a larger share of the total population in 13 districts of Andhra resulted in revenue deficit for residual Andhra Pradesh State. Telangana, with 10 districts (including urban Hyderabad and its industrial out skirts) after bifurcation, on the other hand was left with very little irrigated fertile agricultural land, but a thriving industrial urban center and a revenue surplus. There are also unresolved disputes of water sharing and power (electricity) sharing.

After bifurcation, Telangana has higher level of urbanization (39%) compared to Andhra (29.6%) as per 2011 census. Contribution of Agriculture was more to Gross value added at about 29% in Andhra compared to 12.8% in Telangana. Net state domestic product per capita was higher for Telangana (Rs. 51017) than Andhra (Rs.44831) in 2014-15 at constant prices.

The disadvantaged social groups mostly live in rural areas of backward districts in both the states. All rural districts are poor in Telangana. In Andhra 7 rural district are poor but 5 rural districts are quite rich with low poverty.  Commensurate with lower urbanization, overall poverty levels were higher in Andhra (11%) compared to Telangana (8.8%), as per the poverty estimate using Tendulkar committee norms that are officially accepted.  The poverty gaps across social groups were higher in Andhra than Telangana, scheduled tribes experiencing 31% of poverty in Andhra. With mechanization of cleaning work and reduction in government employment and increase in contract work, the backward classes have been successfully entering the space so far enjoyed by scheduled caste sanitation workers in government employment in both the states. Certain scheduled tribes in forested areas, displaced by irrigation projects, illegal mining in forest area, are likely to become permanent environmental refuges in both the states.

Social dynamics

Scheduled tribes are about 5.3% of the total population in Andhra and most of them live in remote and in-accessible terrain compared to the Scheduled tribes of Telangana who live in more hospitable environs constituting about 9.08 % of the state population. Scheduled castes constitute 17.1% of population in Andhra and 15.45% in Telangana

The overall social composition has changed in both the bifurcated states. As per Srikrishna committee report of 2010, constituted to report on bifurcation, the upper castes constituted 32% of the population in coastal Andhra and 24% in Rayalaseema. The upper caste population in Telangana was much less at about 10.7% of the total population. The calculations of upper castes by Srikrishna Commission were based on 2001census data and National sample survey estimate of backward castes.[i] If we apply the same methodology to 2011 census, and use NSS 2011-12 proportion of Backward Classes, we get about 21.7% as the upper caste population in residual Andhra, almost double that of Telangana. Andhra has 46.8% Back ward class population and  Telangana has 65% backward class population.

Political implications

This changed social athematic has marginalized the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population in Telangana. Probably this is the reason for the defeat of Congress with the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe supporters scattered across districts in the 2018 state elections. Backward classes with upper caste aspirations and lower literacy rates did not challenge the upper caste political dominance in Telangana’s existing government that was re-elected.

In contrast in the residual Andhra Pradesh, consolidation of upper caste vote is more important than in Telangana for electoral success. Aspirations of power by rival upper castes make the battle for political power more intense. Scheduled tribes are marginalized group in residual Andhra Pradesh, though scheduled castes who live in low poverty districts still count for electoral calculations. All political parties, woe the backward castes.

After the bifurcation in both the states the upper caste hegemony continues in both the states, with political and economic dominance in government, business, government contracts of mega projects and media.

Quality of Life – (Household Amenities Index) across social groups

This section analyses the variation in well-being across social groups in terms of quality of life based on Household Amenities Index, which is the dependent variable for all the models. The independent variables at the household level, include caste categories (social groups), land ownership categories, sex, age and education of the household head, size and sex composition of the household, ownership of land (total and irrigated), ownership of motor vehicles (proxy for consumer durables) and holding of BPL card (proxy for poverty status). The district level variables include, poverty rate, urbanization rate, regular employment proportion, and political representation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (proxy for relative political advantage of these castes across districts).

Caste used as an independent variable has been coded as a categorical variable in the DLHS-4 data, and it has been used without change. 1, 2 and 3, stand for Scheduled caste, Scheduled tribe, and other backward castes respectively. ‘Others’ category, which forms the base group in our analysis, was coded as 6.

Household amenities index created, uses available data on four household amenities. Five categories of toilets, five categories of drinking water sources, five categories of cooking fuels and four categories of houses have been given scores in the ascending order of quality. These scores are added for each household and divided by four to get the average score of quality of life. The average score varies between 4.75 and 1.25 but the variable is a continuous variable and not a categorical variable.  Categorical variable was created for land-class by location for rural and urban areas. The rural land less was coded as 1 and used as base category.   Codes of 2, 3, and 4 represent, rural land-owning class, urban land less and urban land owning class respectively.

The other variables used are: Any type of treatment of drinking water (1= treatment 2= no treatment), Any usual member in the household covered by health insurance or health scheme (1=Y & 2= N), Area of land owned by the household in hectares, Area of irrigated land owned by the household in hectares,  Education as the number of years of schooling, Age of the individual in months,  Ratio of females to males in the households, female headed household, Size of the household, Households that hold a Below poverty line card (Y=1 and N=2) etc.  The data is sourced from the household level data collected by District level Health Survey -4 of 2012-13 ( DLHS-4)

The district variables used in the study are poverty rate, urbanization rate, regular employment rate, and political representation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Census of 2011 provides the data on district level urbanization. Percentage of people below poverty line as per Tendulkar methodology at the district level, and the percentage of people with regular salaried employment at the district level have been estimated from the unit level data of National Sample Survey of 2011-12 (CESS Human development reports 2016).

Political representation of scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes together at the district level has been calculated as the potential advantage by multiplying the district population of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, with the number of seats reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the district. This variable shows the relative electoral advantage of these groups in various districts. Higher percentage shows higher advantage in that district relative to other districts and not the advantage within the district (Appendix tables 1 and 2).

Methodology

Mixed effects linear maximum likelihood model (Tom Snijders & Roel Bosker 2012) was found appropriate for multilevel analysis, showing better fit to the data. For all the mixed effects regressions, the fit was good. The first part of the result gives the effect of household characteristics on the dependent variable. The random part of the result gives the contribution of district characteristics to the household amenities index, the dependent variable.  The interactions between social group and the district characteristics show the relative influence of these on the quality of life. Both Ordinary Least squares as well as mixed effects model give a good fit to the data judging from R-square values and F-test for ordinary least squares and Wald test chi square as well as the Chi bar square of the Likelihood Ratio test for mixed effects.

Factors influencing Quality of life (Ordinary least squares Squares)

The question being answered is whether quality of life varies significantly across the social groups after controlling for the other household characteristics. The results show that significant quality of life index differentials exist across social groups, even after controlling for household characteristics in OLS estimations. Compared to other castes, the base category, scheduled tribes are worse off in both the states. Other backward classes and scheduled castes are better off than the scheduled tribes but not on par with the base category consisting of upper castes.

With respect to other variables, compared to the rural land less, rural landed households, urban landless and urban landed households are better off. While ownership of irrigated land improves the quality of life, ownership of land has no influence on quality of life.  This is because parts of Andhra as well as Telangana, are semi-arid in nature and the farm sizes tend to be higher than the irrigated areas, but crops fail giving low income, often leading to poverty and lower quality of life.  Below Poverty line card (an entitlement card for subsidized grain) was held by poor and hence non-holders have a significantly better quality of life. Female headed households do not have any influence on life quality but the households with more females are worse off with respect to life quality Index only in Telangana. Both, age of the head of the household and the level of education, improve the quality of life of households in both the states. While social group discrimination is obvious, gender discrimination by the head of the household is not apparent in the quality of life (Appendix tables 3 and 4).

Contribution of Household factors and District factors to Quality of life

The quality of life of the poor improves only with effective public provisioning. State governments provide, water, sanitation, housing, cooking fuel and food grains at highly subsidized prices. Governments also provide employment of last resort, through job cards for 100 days (Employment guarantee schemes) for all those who are willing to take up manual work. District is the administrative unit for all public provisioning. Effective governance depends upon the administrative efficiency, which varies from one district to the other. Factors such as the agro-climatic background, employment potential etc., are also specific to the district. Most of these specific unobserved variations are captured in the constant term which is significant. The overall contribution of the district to the variation in quality of life of households is small at about 5.8% for the composite state about 5.6% for bifurcated Andhra state and only 3.3% for Telangana but significant (Appendix tables 5 and 6).

Household effects and District contextual effects (Mixed effects model)

The caste as a household characteristic remains significant with negative effects in lower castes, in both the states. Compared to the other castes, backward castes and scheduled castes are worse off, scheduled tribes having lowest quality of life. The mixed effects model shows significant influence of the education and age of the household head, extent of land owned, and the irrigated land owned as significant contributors to the variation in quality of life both in Andhra and Telangana. Household size has a significant negative contribution in Andhra, whereas household with more females has a significant negative contribution to quality of life in Telangana. As expected in both the states, BPL card holders show significantly lower quality of life.

The district contextual effects bring out some very interesting aspects. If the level of poverty is low in the district, quality of life in terms of basic minimum amenities will be better for the households in Andhra Pradesh. Similarly, higher levels of urbanization and regular employment improve quality of life at the household level in Andhra. In Telangana, all the individual district contextual effects are insignificant when considered separately. It is because the rural parts of all districts of Telangana are poor uniformly and urban parts of the district are not poor without much variation. In Telangana urbanization, low poverty and regular employment are all closely correlated rendering them insignificant due to multi-co-linearity problem. The divide is urban rural divide in Telangana but urbanization is not captured at the district level (Appendix Tables 5 and 6).

Interaction of caste with other district characteristics

When we include inter action terms of caste with district characteristics of poverty, urbanization and regular employment opportunity, caste categories become significant for scheduled caste and other backward castes and insignificant for scheduled tribes compared to other Castes, but now the sign changes to positive in Andhra. What it means is that as and when Scheduled castes and Other Backward Castes that have the same household characteristics live in the districts with similar levels of poverty urbanization and potential of regular employment, scheduled caste and other backward caste can have a similar quality of life or even better than the other castes, that include upper castes in Andhra. Yet the scheduled tribes will not benefit and continue to have low quality of life. Now the Poverty- Caste interaction and Regular Employment-Caste interaction also turns positive and significant and urbanization caste interaction becomes insignificant in Andhra. Regular employment is becoming a proxy for urbanization and hence urbanization becomes insignificant. Positive interactions with caste, in Andhra, means that caste is more important than district characteristic of poverty and regular employment opportunity in the district. Unless until the household differences, in education, asset holdings, employment comes down for the same age and sex of the household, the caste difference will continue to be high in Andhra despite a household being in a prosperous district. The result reflects the fact that both urban and rural upper castes are rich in Andhra.

Only poverty caste interaction turns significant negative in Telangana meaning, poverty level of the district is more important than caste. The level of poverty in the district is more important for better quality of life in Telangana. Urbanization and regular employment interactions are not significant in Telangana since low poverty in the proxy for urban areas and the regular employment. By reducing the inter district differences in poverty, caste gaps can be reduced in Telangana. In other words, urban rural poverty differentials should come down in Telangana. The other castes are more in urban areas and lower castes are more in rural Telangana. Rural prosperity improves scheduled caste and scheduled tribe quality of Life in Telangana (Appendix tables 9 &10).

Political representation of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes

When we include the political representation variable, the district poverty variable becomes insignificant but political representation effect becomes significant in Andhra. It is the other way in Telangana, poverty becomes significant rendering political representation insignificant. In Andhra political representation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes contributes to better quality of life unlike in Telangana.  This is probably due to higher literacy rates of Scheduled castes in Andhra compared to Telangana. It shows that better off districts have more political representation of the disadvantaged in Andhra and poor districts have more political representation of the disadvantaged in Telangana. Political representation has not made any difference to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribe people of the district in Telangana (Appendix tables 7&8).

Lower poverty level rather than political representation improves the quality of life of the households. Probably reducing poverty at the district level in districts with high percentage of the scheduled castes and tribes should be the strategy rather than pinning hopes on political representation of the disadvantaged in the district.

Conclusions

Bifurcation has changed socio economic dynamics of the two bifurcated states and hence the strategy of development should be different for these states. Hence the strategies of reducing the gaps in social groups differ between Andhra and Telangana. Andhra should concentrate on the reducing the caste gaps through education, employment, and better public amenities to the sub-castes that are left behind living in the rural areas to catch up with the others. It should put in a massive effort to improve the lives of Scheduled tribes, without displacement.  Telangana should reduce the urban rural divide that will help the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes to catch up with the other groups.

It is obvious that scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are gaining relatively less compared to other groups. As upper caste hegemony continues in both the states, followed by back ward class dominance over the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, these groups will increasingly become marginalized politically, socially and economically.  In future back ward classes aspiration for political and economic power may pose a threat to upper castes, if the relatively richer Kapu community gets the backward class status in Andhra. Even in Telangana, the upper caste political dominance could be challenged if the literacy levels improve for other castes.

Endnotes

[i]Population of upper caste plus backward castes was the residual population after deducting the Muslim and other religious groups including those without religion and the SC and ST population from the total population. The BC proportion of NSS was applied to census population to derive BC population.  The estimated BC population was deducted from Upper caste plus backward castes population to get the upper caste population in the state.

Appendix

TABLE ONE

TABLE TWO

TABLE THREE

TABLE FOUR

TABLE FIVE

TABLE SIX

TABLE SEVEN

TABLE EIGHT

TABLE NINE

TABLE TEN

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