Thursday, May 31, 2007

UK Court of Appeal quashed Marriage Amendment Act

UK Court of Appeal quashed Marriage Amendment Act
Dinamalar epaper

Politicians ill-served by civil servants

Politicians ill-served by civil servants
Thursday May 31 2007 09:34 IST

Jaithirth Rao

Bureaucrats, we think, are masters of drafting. Not so. I would say instead that a lot of what generates political and legal controversy is simply the result of shoddy drafting of laws by the bureaucracy, which then get passed by our lawmakers without spending too much time or quality thought on the same.

Let us consider one of the early conflicts. The bank nationalisation ordinance was struck down by the courts primarily on two grounds. First, it was held that by ignoring goodwill, the compensation formula was inappropriate. Second, there was an unnecessary clause in the ordinance prohibiting the shareholders of nationalised banks from entering into the banking business. This was deemed a violation of citizens’ rights to conduct business, earn livelihoods, etc. To start a bank one anyway needs a licence, which only the Reserve Bank of India can grant. Those were the days before central bank autonomy.

Licences could easily have been withheld by the government. This clause was superfluous and silly. In fact in the subsequent legislation it was dropped and the law passed the scrutiny of the courts. One can hardly blame Indira Gandhi for the poor drafts, unnecessary clauses, etc. The fault clearly lay with the civil servants whom she depended upon.

Similarly, when she lost her proposed constitutional amendment on privy purses, Indira Gandhi tried to get around it by “derecognising” through an ordinance all the maharajas and nawabs. The courts again struck down this ill-conceived and ill-worded ordinance. The power to recognise or “derecognise” was never meant to be exercised against 600-odd princes by a stroke of the pen. Even if she were in a peeved and frustrated mood, it was the duty of her advisors to guide her towards a resolution that would have stood the test of scrutiny, not come up overnight with an ill-thought-out scheme that was bound to fail.

Throughout the seventies, we witnessed the ongoing claims by the so-called left-liberal lobbies that the courts were holding up progressive legislation and were thwarting the intent of the legislature. None of them wanted to examine the extent to which they created problems for themselves by laws written in haste and almost invariably full of clumsy, unnecessary excesses, which forced the courts to react the way they did.

Today, reservations have become the focus of attention. Anyone who has read the Constitution should know that “equality of all citizens irrespective of caste or religion” is a fundamental feature. No court can afford to ignore this. If, for some reason, elected leaders are unaware of this very central constitutional precept, it is the duty and obligation of the concerned civil servants to remind their political bosses of the same in no uncertain terms. It is true that the Constitution does provide for special remedial action favouring disadvantaged sections of the population. But the tenet of equality is so overwhelmingly important, that the rationale and the methodology for helping the underprivileged targets need to be really sharp and credible for the judiciary to be in a position to hold that equality of citizens can be set aside in a special circumstance in a specific manner.

The courts have given enough signals and a sufficient number of messages, both direct and indirect, in this regard. And yet, when a new law is drafted, it is simplistic beyond belief and blithely ignores the need for carefully building up the argument and, more importantly, the methodology for implementing something that in effect violates the equality provision. If there had been even a minimalist obeisance to the principle that benefits accruing to the so-called ‘creamy layer’ would have amounted to a gross violation of the equality principle and therefore was being somewhat controlled, the courts would have the elbow room to go along with the wishes of the legislature.

But there has been no such attempt. Instead we get a bland number with vague and untenable arguments behind them. The ‘creamy layer’ concern of the judiciary (which has been earlier expressed by a full bench in emphatic terms) is ignored with an imperceptible shrug. No wonder, the government of the day finds itself in an embarrassing gridlock. I would argue that our politicians are being ill-served by their civil servants whose job it is (a la Appleby) to ensure that ministers present the public with solutions that will pass muster of the various review processes.

The fact of the matter is that reservations for OBCs in educational institutions have to be accepted as a necessary political response to the social situation in our country. The votaries of ‘pure merit’ may feel good and sanctimonious in resisting this. But it is unlikely that they will succeed. Among other things, reservation is perceived by our politicians to be a vote-winner. Against this argument, there is precious little one can do in a democracy!

It is however possible and even desirable to implement this policy in a rational way that among other things will let our judges (who are sworn to protect a constitution committed to equality of citizens) to allow reservations to meet the other constitutional provision of helping underprivileged classes (which too they are sworn to uphold). Incidentally, the Indian state is going to find it even more difficult to push through reservations in minority-run institutions. The Constitution has strong provisions protecting their autonomy, provisions that cannot be easily violated. The Kerala government is already grappling with this, admittedly not very efficiently.

Unless the drafting of these laws is done with the greatest care this is likely to become the next case of the so-called legislature-judiciary stand-off. Intelligent, well-thought-out legislation should be in a position to deal with the creative tension arising from two seemingly contradictory constitutional positions. Casual, shoddy, hasty laws will simply not do the work. And to make up for poor drafting by exaggerating a legislature-judiciary conflict does not do justice to the Republic, which we all wish well.

The writer is Chairman, Mphasis. These are his personal views

The New Indian Express

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Photographic feat in Tamil Nadu

Photographic feat


The inaccessible Chola murals at the Big Temple in Thanjavur have been captured in almost life-size photographs and displayed at the temple.

The Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

IN a remarkable feat performed in the face of overwhelming odds, two officers of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and a young photographer have photographed in minute detail four huge frescoes found in the Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. What makes their work all the more creditable is the difficult location of the murals, their enormous size and their reflecting surface, all of which posed big challenges.


The passage around the sanctum sanctorum where the murals were found.

The murals, each 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide (4.5 metres x 3 metres), are about 1,000 years old. They are located in the narrow and dark passage around the temple's sanctum sanctorum. The great Chola king Raja Raja I built the Brihadisvara temple between AD 1000 and AD 1008 and the paintings were done between AD 1008 and AD 1012.

CAPTURING THE MAGNIFICENCE. A single-frame, out-of-perspective picture of the mural depicting Siva as Nataraja.

If most visitors had hitherto no access to these paintings because of their location, they can now relish the paintings' exact photographic reproductions, which are on display at the newly opened Interpretation Centre on the temple premises. The photographs measure nine feet by six feet.

A montage gives a more accurate reproduction of the mural.

The credit for photographing the murals in exact detail, capturing their texture and colour, goes to the team comprising Dr. T. Satyamurthy, who was Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Chennai Circle, when the project was executed; P.S. Sriraman, Assistant Superintending Archaeologist; and N. Thyagarajan, artist and photographer.


Rishi and Rishikumara in the Dakshinamurthy panel.

The four paintings depict Siva as Dakshinamurthy, the story of Tamil Saivite saint Sundarar, Siva as Tripurantaka, and Raja Raja Chola and his family worshipping Nataraja (Siva) at the Chidambaram temple. The paintings, rich in detail, offer a lot of historical information. While all the frescoes in the Brihadisvara temple together occupy 660 square metres, these four paintings alone take up 110 sq m.

Village elders reading a document in the Sundarar panel.

Photographing the murals was extremely difficult because they are painted on both walls of the dark, dingy and narrow passage, which has no ventilation. The space between the two walls is less than seven feet, so there is not much space for the photographer to step back and capture images. Since the paintings are 15 feet tall, one must crane one's neck to look at the top portions. Most visitors are not allowed to see these paintings because of the narrowness of the passage and the poor light and ventilation.

Royal ladies in the Nataraja panel.

Satyamurthy said: "The ASI, Chennai Circle, therefore, undertook a project to photograph the murals, prepare photographic reproductions and display them in almost their true size and original colours. This effort required special techniques because of paucity of space, poor lighting and the enormous size of the murals. They had to be photographed in many small frames and then joined to make one frame. This effort needed high skill."

Vishnu in the Kalyanasundaramurthi panel, in the Ajanta tradition.

Sriraman said: "What is seen in the paintings is seen in the frames. We have assembled the photographs without loss of perspective. Anybody can see the paintings in their original dimensions in our photographs." He explained why the ASI decided to go public with the paintings: "Documentation is important because people of the next generation should know that these paintings existed. Recopying is important. In photography, you get accurate reproduction."

A demon and his consort in the Tripurantaka panel.

What prompted Satyamurthy and Sriraman to get the murals photographed was that while a number of books had been written about the Ajanta and Ellora paintings and research done on them, there was virtually no publication on the Chola paintings in the Brihadisvara temple.

It was in 1931 that these four, and other, murals in the temple were discovered by S.K. Govindaswami of Tamil Nadu. He wrote to The Hindu about it. The relevant news item in The Hindu of April 11, 1931, reads:

"Thousand years old Chola frescoes

Reported discovery in Tanjore Big Temple

Mr. S.K. Govindaswami, M.A., Annamalai University, writes to us under date 10th instant: -

SIVA AS TRIPURANTAKA, who subdued the three demons.

Close upon the discovery of the Pallava paintings in the Kailasanathaswami Temple at Conjeevaram by the French savant, the indefatigable Prof. Jouveau Dubreuil, it has been my great good fortune to bring to light the hitherto unknown frescoes of the Imperial Chola period, in the Brihadeswaraswami Temple, popularly known as `The Big Temple of Tanjore'."

When Govindaswami visited the temple in 1930, he found "in the dim religious light of a small oil lamp... the existence of some kind of paintings on the walls on either side of a dark, narrow circumambulatory passage around the sanctum sanctorum".

When he returned to the temple in 1931 and examined the place thoroughly with the help of a "Baby Petromax", he found that the bright light indeed revealed paintings. "But paintings of an undoubtedly very late and degenerate age, whose linear contortions and chromatic extravagances shattered in a moment all my wonderful dreams of discovering there the best and the only example of the art of Chola mural paintings. Still I chose a part of the western wall for close inspection and found the painted plastering there cracked all over and threatening to fall down. A gentle touch and the whole mass crumbled down, exposing underneath a fine series of frescoes palpitating with the life of the other days."

THE INTERPRETATION CENTRE at the temple complex, where the photographs are on show.

Govindaswami went on to describe the paintings in his letter to The Hindu, adding: "The discovery of these paintings is of great importance to the history of South Indian art. Hitherto, the Pallavas held exclusively the palm for mural paintings in the Tamil country. The Cholas may now be believed to divide the honours equally with the Pallavas not only in the South Indian architecture and sculpture but also in South Indian painting. For I have little doubt, judging from the excellence of the drawings, the colour scheme and the fresco-technique, that these paintings belong to the best period of Chola rule, to the glorious reign of Raja Raja the Great, and contemporary with the building of the Great Temple at Tanjore."

The paintings with "linear contortions and chromatic extravagances" of the "very late and degenerate age", which covered the Chola murals before Govindaswami discovered the latter, were those of the Nayakas and were done in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In terms of the area they occupy, the Chola paintings in the Brihadisvara temple rank next only to the Buddhist paintings at Ajanta in Maharashtra. While the murals at Ajanta come under the tempera variety, those at the Big Temple are called frescoes. The artists at Ajanta applied a coat of plaster on the wall of the caves and did the paintings after the plaster dried up. The paintings survive to this day because the painting material holds together the pigment in it and the plaster.

But the Chola-age artists used a more difficult technique at the Brihadisvara temple. They applied lime plaster on the wall and painted the murals on the plaster while it was still wet. This demanded that they should do the sketches and complete the painting before the lime plaster dried up. This is not easy given the humidity conditions in Tamil Nadu. In this technique, the paintings formed part and parcel of the thin lime plaster. Sriraman said, "Here both the plaster and the painting integrate together. The frescoes are, therefore, more durable but their execution is very difficult."

In the 1960s, Subbaraman, the Superintending Chemist of the ASI, discovered a technique by which he stripped the Nayaka paintings that covered the Chola paintings in such a way that the Nayaka paintings, too, could be saved. Subbaraman removed the Nayaka paintings and pasted them on another mount.

When Satyamurthy and Sriraman contacted Thyagarajan about photographing the Chola frescoes, he accepted the assignment because of the challenges that the work presented. Thyagarajan, a 31-year-old post-graduate (Master of Fine Arts) from the Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai, knew how difficult it was to make a mural because he was an artist himself. The technical difficulties he faced in reproducing the murals in the form of photographs involved their size, their location and their reflecting surfaces. "We solved the problems one by one," he said.

Thyagarajan used the technique of montage in photography to deal with the enormous size of the paintings. "The only solution to the problem presented by size lay in photo montaging," he said. He took 40 to 50 frames of each painting, using digital photography, and assembled them in a computer to reproduce the whole painting.

A ROYAL LADY in theKalyanasundaramurthi panel. It isreminiscent of the Ajanta tradition.

But when he did the montaging, he found that the colours used in the murals differed from area to area. Besides, while the top portions were shadowy, there was light at the lower portions. "I had to balance the photo exposure from top to bottom [of the panel]," he said. The offsets created by the protruding pillars on the wall created difficulties because the murals continued on these offsets. Each panel had two offsets. It was not easy to photograph the continuation of the murals on these offsets.

The murals were photographed frame by frame. But there were difficulties in joining the frames on computer using digital technology because the frames ended with a fine line. He mechanically divided the mural into frames without sacrificing the artistic elegance of the paintings or their aesthetic value. For instance, if the arm of a person in a mural was across two frames, they were joined on computer in such a manner that the difference was not apparent.

"If we want to reproduce the aesthetic value of the paintings in the photographs, the montage should be 110 per cent exact. Only an artist who is technically qualified can do that," said Thyagarajan.

THE ARCHAEOLOGISTS AND THE PHOTOGRAPHER. (From left)T. Satyamurthy, former Superintending Archaeologist, Chennai Circle, ASI;P.S. Sriraman, Assistant Superintending Archaeologist, ASI; and N.Thyagarajan, artist and photographer.

According to Satyamurthy, several pieces of interesting information came to light when the murals were studied. For instance, in the mural that depicts Siva as Tripurantaka, there is a portrayal of three men worshipping the Buddha. The three men were originally demons (Asuras) who had harassed the Devas. Siva could not destroy these three Asuras because they happened to be his devotees. So the Devas requested Vishnu to convert them to Buddhism. "This is a story of the native Tamil country. This story is found in Tamil Saivite literature. It is not found anywhere else in India. The story is carved not only in stone in the Brihadisvara temple but portrayed in the painting," Satyamurthy said.

He is glad that art historians who could not enjoy the Chola paintings in the dark corridor can now study their photographic reproductions in the Interpretation Centre. There are write-ups. Also on exhibition at the centre are the detached Nayaka paintings.

THE location was a nightmare. There was not enough light and space, and use of harsh lights was taboo. How to take photographs of the top portions of the murals?

The ASI men rigged up a platform that moved up and down like a lift. "The platform from which the photographs were taken had to move parallel to the panel. The lighting from the top to the bottom had to be uniform," said P.S. Sriraman, Assistant Superintending Archaeologist, ASI. There was a space of only six feet between the paintings and the camera.

Ajanta of the South

Raja Raja with his teacher Karuvur Thevar.
Of all arts the best is chitra. It gives the fruit of dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Wherever it is established in a house (or otherwise), it is harbinger of auspiciousness.
- Chitrasutra of Vishnudarmottara
(translation by C. Sivaramamurti)

THERE is no doubt that painting enjoyed a very high position among the arts in ancient India. Ancient texts place great importance on the art of painting as it was considered to be the best form of surface decoration of any structure. Murals were part of all structures; almost all the temples were decorated with paintings. These paintings have disappeared for various reasons, such as the lack of tenacity of the binding medium of the pigments and harsh climatic conditions. Only a fragment is preserved.

Undoubtedly, the Ajanta murals, are the highest watermark of the Indian mural tradition. Next to them are the murals found in the dark pradakshinapatha of the Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur.

Exactly a thousand years ago, Raja Raja I (AD 984-1014), the great Chola monarch, was busy building the Brihadisvara temple. He was one of those rare rulers who chose to wait to ascend the throne when it was his turn. He magnanimously allowed his great-uncle to rule though he was the choice of the masses and the latter was suspected to have had a role in the assassination of his elder brother. Possibly, the pressure-free period that followed allowed him to mature as a person and perhaps helped him conceive of the construction of this great edifice.

Raja Raja not only built a great edifice but also created an excellent institution to manage all its activities, endowed massive gifts to the temple and had them meticulously inventoried in long epigraphs and engraved on the walls of the temple. The fine art forms of natya and chitra did not escape his attention. He wanted all the 108 karanas that are fundamental to Indian dance forms carved on blocks of stone. Only 81 are completed and space is left for the rest. This happens to be the earliest visual record of the karanas, and the portrayal on stone closely follows the words of the sage Bharata, who authored Natya Shastra.

He chose the darkest part of the edifice - the pradakshinapatha (circumambulatory path) around the sanctum sanctorum - for his frescoes. These Chola masterpieces differ vastly from the Ajanta murals. The Ajanta artists used the easier tempera technique whereas the Chola artists opted for the difficult fresco technique, covering some 7,200 square feet of wall area. The themes were carefully selected from Saivite mythology. Without doubt, every theme and form was approved by Raja Raja himself, who was a devotee of Siva: his pet epithet was Sivapathasekaran.

The themes depicted in the panels exposed (1,200 sq ft) so far are Siva as Dakshinamurthy, the story of Sundarar, Raja Raja and his three queens worshipping Nataraja (Siva) at Chidmabaram, Tripurantaka, the marriage of Siva and Parvati, Raja Raja worshipping the Linga to be enshrined in the temple, and Ravana at Kailasa. The Nayaka palimpsest covers the rest of the area.

The banyan tree behind Dakshinamurthy is testimony to the imagination of the Chola artists. There are playful monkeys and birds such as peacocks, swans and owls. Enters a ferocious cobra and there is a sudden change in the mood. A monkey rushes away while another stares at the new entrant. Another, on a faraway branch, is not yet aware of the danger. A few sensitive swans flutter their wings in fear. The owls do not react as the whole thing happens in daylight. A peacock bends his long neck to watch. A squirrel, unmindful of all this, happily bites into a nut.

Below the tree is a herd of elephants; one ferociously breaks a branch and another runs uphill with its trunk coiled around the branch. Another one calmly enjoys the peaceful surroundings.

The panel depicting the story of Sundarar has many interesting details. While drawing the cloth roof over the assembly of visitors, the artist has painted mechanically many figures of a bird. Was the Chola artist trying to copy the motif of a contemporary printed cloth?

Not surprisingly, Raja Raja had himself (or Chera king Cheraman to some) painted, with his three principal queens, offering prayers at the shrine of Nataraja, in one of the panels. From the epigraphs we understand Nataraja was the tutelary deity of the Cholas. It was believed that Raja Raja was destined to retrieve the lost collection of great Saivite hymns of Thevaram from Chidambaram. Interestingly, the present shrine, built in the 12th century, shares some architectural features with the one painted here.

Even while depicting a theme of devotion, the artist does not neglect the mundane aspects. The group of highly bedecked royal ladies chatter among themselves, in spite of their being in a holy place. Their costume and jewellery reflect the high fashion of the time. In contrast, the common ladies and benign elders are quite absorbed by the Great Cosmic Dance. The artist's attention to detail captures even the nails on the door. The depiction of Nataraja is a visual treat.

The Cholas had a fancy for the Tripurantaka form of Siva, who subdued the three demons. Strengthened by a boon from Brahma, they played havoc with the gods by building impregnable forts, one each on the earth, in the atmosphere and in the universe. Scholars feel that by depicting Tripurantaka Siva prominently in the temple, the king compares his valour with the immeasurable valour of Siva displayed in this form.

Every face reflects an expression. If vira (valour) is reflected in the face of Siva, it is raudrakaruna (compassion) in the faces of the wives of the demons, who try to stop them from the futile fight with the supreme power. Interestingly, a figure of the Buddha appears on the top of the panel. It does not in any way reflect the compassion of Raja Raja towards other creeds; but the panel followed faithfully the storyline of Tripurantaka as referred to in Thevaram. (unfounded anger) in the demons' faces and

The other panels are fragmentary but they, too, contain some marvellously drawn figures, bearing testimony to the skilful brushwork of the Chola artists.

The words of Calambur Sivaramamurti succinctly capture the greatness of the Chola murals: "If expression has to be taken as the criterion, by which a great art has to be judged, it is here in abundance in these Chola paintings. The sentiment of heroism - vira rasa - is clearly seen in Tripurantaka's face and form; the figures and attitude of the Rakshasas... wailing tear-stained faces of their women... suggest an emotion of pity - karuna - and terror - raudra; Siva as Dakshinamurthy... is the mirror of peace - santa; the hands... of the dancer suggests the spirit of wonder - adbhuta... the ganas in comic attitude represent hasya. The commingling of emotions is complete in this which is a jumble of vira, raudra and karuna" (Paintings of South India).

Had he been alive, he would have been immensely happy to see the photographic reproductions, for he meticulously made many line sketches to illustrate his works. Always, his lines equalled those of the ancient artists.

P.S. Sriraman is Assistant Superintending Archaeologist, ASI. He was part of the team that oversaw the photographing of the murals at the Brihadisvara temple.


Mayhem in Madurai

Mayhem in Madurai


Violence over an opinion poll on Karunanidhi's successor brings into the open the family feud in the DMK.


Goons ransack and destroy newsprint at Dinakaran's press in Madurai in the presence of the police.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi cautioned against it, but the Tamil daily Dinakaran, owned by his grandnephew Kalanidhi Maran, went ahead and published an opinion poll on May 9 on who should succeed Karunanidhi. Within hours all hell broke loose in Madurai, where the office of the daily, which also houses the Sun TV network, was attacked and set on fire by supporters of M.K. Azhagiri, the Chief Minister's elder son.

The violence and arson claimed three lives - two young engineers and a security guard in the Dinakaran office - and set off a chain of events that ended in the exit of Dayanidhi Maran, younger brother of Kalanidhi Maran, as Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology.

The bloodletting led to protests by journalists across Tamil Nadu; they saw the murderous attack as an assault on the freedom of the press. Opposition parties called for the dismissal of the DMK government. Karunanidhi quickly announced that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) would investigate the violence and the deaths because he saw an attempt to implicate his family in the incidents.

This helped ease the tension somewhat but brought into sharper focus the manner in which the police handled the situation. As newscasts on television showed, they were silent spectators to the attack and in some cases even seemed to abet the crime.

Thugs stormed the building that houses the offices of Dinakaran, Sun TV and Tamil Murasu (an eveninger), ordered the employees out, damaged the printing machinery, set vehicles on fire and threw petrol bombs. As flames leapt up and smoke filled the rooms, M. Vinod Kumar (23) and G. Gopinath (25), both software engineers, were trapped inside and suffocated to death. The charred body of K. Muthuramalingam (42), the security guard, was found hours later.

Kalanidhi Maran, chairman and managing director of Sun Network, said after visiting the Dinakaran office that his employees blamed Azhagiri for the attack. Asked by reporters whether Azhagiri was behind the attack, he dodged the question and said: "I stand by what my employees say."

The events cast a shadow on the grand function in Chennai on May 11 celebrating Karunanidhi's 50 years as a legislator. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi took part in the event, but Dayanidhi Maran, who used to be present by Karunanidhi's side on occasions big or small, stayed away. Azhagiri flew in from Madurai to be with the family at the celebration.

On May 13, the DMK's administrative committee empowered Karunanidhi and party general secretary K. Anbazhagan to "remove" Dayanidhi Maran from the Union Cabinet because his "recent approaches and activities violated party discipline and maligned the DMK". This effectively brought into the open the ongoing feud between the Maran brothers and the Chief Minister's sons Azhagiri and M.K. Stalin.

While Stalin is the Local Administration Minister in the State, Azhagiri does not hold any post, party or otherwise, but has carved out a political empire for himself in southern Tamil Nadu with his base in Madurai.

Kalanidhi and Dayanidhi are the sons of the late Murasoli Maran, Karunanidhi's sister's son and former Union Minister. Kalanidhi Maran's Sun TV Network is a Rs.400-crore company with the Marans holding most of the shares. Before becoming a Union Minister, Dayanidhi Maran was in charge of Sun TV's cable network operations.

Controversial question


In the State Assembly on May 12, M.K. Azhagiri and his mother, Dayalu Ammal, watch the proceedings when Chief Minister Karunanidhi was honoured for completing 50 years as a legislator.

What sparked the latest round of incidents was an opinion poll published in Dinakaran on May 9. The question that sparked the trouble was "Who should be Kalaignar's [Karunanidhi's] political heir?" In the poll, conducted in Tamil Nadu by A.C. Nielsen, 70 per cent of the respondents backed Stalin and 2 per cent each favoured Azhagiri and Kanimozhi, Karunanidhi's daughter, who is not in politics. The category "others" received 20 per cent of the votes. In Chennai, Azhagiri drew a blank, while in Madurai, his fief, more respondents preferred Stalin to him.

Azhagiri, DMK sources said, suspected a motive. He considered the poll to be a ploy to divide him and Stalin again after the two had buried their differences a few years ago. "Others", who had 20 per cent support, was a camouflage for Dayanidhi, the sources claimed.

An angry Azhagiri said: "I am not holding any post in the party. I do not want to hold any post also. So why should they conduct a poll about me? There is a motive behind it." He alleged that the poll was published to hurt Karunanidhi when he was scheduled to celebrate 50 years as a legislator.

What infuriated Karunanidhi was that Dinakaran published the poll, part of a "mega survey" covering various subjects, even after he had specifically set his face against its publication; he had sent word to Dinakaran's office not to publish it and also got in touch with the newspaper's management on phone.

Karunanidhi's circumspection could be traced to the reaction to the opinion poll published in the daily on May 7 on "the most efficient Union Minister from Tamil Nadu". It created bitterness among the cadre of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a partner in the DMK-led Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA).

This poll had Dayanidhi ahead with 64 per cent of the respondents favouring him. Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram got 27 per cent; Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways T.R. Baalu 7 per cent; and Minister for Health and Family Welfare Anbumani Ramadoss and others 1 per cent each.

S. Ramadoss, PMK founder and Anbumani's father, took exception to the poll and the PMK cadre burnt copies of Dinakaran in several places. The DMK high command interpreted the poll as an effort to burnish Dayanidhi's image at the expense of the other Ministers, including those of the DMK.

"Puzzled" by timing

Karunanidhi told the Assembly on May 10 that Dinakaran published the poll of May 7 despite his sending word to the daily's office in Chennai and telling the office on phone not to conduct such a poll. In fact, he said, he had issued a statement on May 7 disavowing his faith in such polls.

Karunanidhi said he was "puzzled" by the timing. He added that when he saw the advertisements in Dinakaran about A.C. Nielsen's "mega survey" he wondered what the need was for such a series of opinion polls now and feared that it would create unnecessary problems. He said he told the Dinakaran office so. "But the Dinakaran management did not accept my views and published the poll on May 7," the Chief Minister said.

The May 7 poll became "a tool to create disaffection not only in the DMK but among the allies [of the DMK]", he said. "Although I sent word, and despite my issuing a statement and making it clear that I was angry [after the opinion poll was published on May 7], Dinakaran published another opinion poll on May 9," Karunanidhi said. The same morning Azhagiri's supporters in Madurai erupted in bone-chilling violence.

The violence escalated in stages. First, miscreants stoned government buses near the Periyar bus terminus because they were "pained that our elder brother did not get favourable ratings in Dinakaran". Later, a group led by Mayor G. Thenmozhi gathered in front of Dinakaran's office, shouted slogans, burnt copies of the newspaper and dispersed. The protesters who came next meant business. They threw stones at the building, breaking windowpanes, set fire to parked motorcycles and threatened Dinakaran/Sun TV employees with dire consequences. The police, who came to the spot, remained passive spectators.

At 11 a.m., the third group, led by "Attack" Pandi and armed with logs, casuarina sticks and petrol bombs, arrived in a Tata Sumo. Policemen stood by as they stormed the Dinakaran office, smashed the printing machinery and set fire to newsprint rolls. A generator room also went up in flames.

Before leaving, they lobbed petrol bombs into the building. In no time, the furniture and furnishings caught fire. As the flames spread, thick smoke enveloped several rooms. Vinod Kumar and Gopinath, who were trapped in their rooms, died of suffocation. Gopinath had head injuries. Several hours later, Muthuramalingam's charred body was found. He is survived by his wife and three children. Some employees escaped death by taking shelter on the first floor.

The next day, Dinakaran published a telling picture of how the police stood by as the goons went about destroying property. The picture shows goons, armed with logs, exiting a hall "escorted' by policemen after they had smashed printing machinery. Both the thugs and the policemen had their heads down, perhaps to avoid being identified, as they were aware that someone was taking pictures.

Sun Network's chief operating officer R.M.R. Ramesh said the police did not do anything to disperse the goons. "We have videographic and photographic evidence. We have the list of all members of the gang," he said.

Protests across State

The murderous violence drew protests from journalists across the State. In Madurai, employees of Dinakaran blocked traffic on the Madurai-Melur road. Journalists in Coimbatore, Cuddalore, Thanjavur, Erode, Nagercoil and other places took out processions and held demonstrations.

In Chennai, a meeting of journalists' organisations said "the barbaric attacks" in Madurai showed that they were "pre-planned by a group of conspirators". The meeting, while welcoming the CBI inquiry, demanded a departmental inquiry into the allegations of police laxity.

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu and Frontline, called the attacks "the darkest hour for the press in Tamil Nadu in recent times". A resolution passed at the meeting said the Chief Minister and the police department "should ensure that the extra-constitutional authority in Madurai is questioned and reined in under the law of the land to ensure that freedom prevailed in Tamil Nadu".

Former Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary Jayalalithaa and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko demanded the dismissal of the government. Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) leader Vijayakant wanted Karunanidhi to resign. Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy demanded that "Azhagiri be externed from Madurai to his home town in Thanjavur so that a free-and-fair investigation can take place".

Family feud


M. Karunanidhi with Dayanidhi Maran at a function in Chennai on April 6.

The chain of incidents was the fallout of a family feud that has smouldered for the past six months, DMK sources said. At the root is perhaps the strained relationship between Azhagiri and Dayanidhi. After Murasoli Maran's death, Dayanidhi was given the party ticket for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and he won from Central Chennai. He was inducted into the Manmohan Singh Cabinet with the prestigious portfolios of Communications and Information Technology. The party leadership boosted his stock and provided him access to Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh.

According to DMK sources, the relationship between the top party leadership and the Maran brothers began to sour in November 2005 when Azhagiri's and Stalin's mother, Dayalu Ammal, relinquished the 20 per cent shares she held in Sun TV and the Tamil weekly Kunkumam and other magazines.

Karunanidhi said on November 7, 2005: "After allocating sufficient amount towards income tax, she [Dayalu Ammal] has divided the total proceeds and given me a portion, being a sum of Rs.10 crores, by way of a cheque." He added that Rs.5 crore would be used to set up the Kalaignar Karunanidhi Charitable Trust. Dayalu Ammal relinquishing her shares in Sun TV was seen as a move to delink the Karunanidhi family from Sun TV.

Dinakaran started playing down news about the DMK after the party's return to power in the State in May 2006, the sources said. This wounded Karunanidhi's feelings. Stalin reportedly received less coverage in both Dinakaran and Sun TV. The Chief Minister was also, reportedly, unhappy with some of the recent actions of Dayanidhi.

The publication of the opinion polls of May 7 and 9, despite the Chief Minister asking the daily not to, proved to be the last straw. The DMK sources alleged that the aim behind the opinion polls was to boost Dayanidhi Maran's stock as the most efficient and active Union Minister from Tamil Nadu. The May 7 poll was seen as having achieved this objective. The May 9 poll was meant to give an impression that Dayanidhi was becoming popular in the State, the DMK sources said. Besides, according to them, the timing of its publication was questionable. Elections were far away.

Karunanidhi said: "What is funny in this is that Azhagiri has often given interviews to the press that he is not interested in party posts. Kanimozhi, who takes part as a poet in literary functions organised by the DMK and the Communist parties, has also said openly, and subtly, that she will not join politics. But Dinkaran needlessly publishes a poll that Azhagiri commands only 2 per cent support [in the State] and none at all in Chennai."

The party administrative committee acted swiftly and authorised Karunanidhi and Anbazhagan on May 13 evening to seek Dayanidhi Maran's removal from the Union Cabinet. The committee resolved that a decision on his party membership would be taken after seeking an explanation from him. Saying that the party was supreme, speakers at the meeting demanded action against Dayanidhi Maran.

Karunanidhi, who addressed the committee, said he would not justify the deaths of three young men. Action would be taken against those responsible for the deaths on the basis of the CBI's report. Karunanidhi reportedly said he had to crack the whip for acts of disobedience.

Dayanidhi Maran faxed his resignation to Manmohan Singh immediately after the resolutions were passed. He said: "I am only sad that an allegation has been put on [sic] me that I was doing anti-party activities." What "worries me is that the leader [Karunanidhi] suspects me", he said. (A. Raja of the DMK is the new Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology. He was earlier Union Minister for Environment and Forests.)

Dayanidhi alleged that "someone has capitalised on the opportunity" and used the incident to "mislead" the Chief Minister. "I do not know what anti-party activities I have done. I did not even dream of any anti-party activity against my leader or party," he said.

State Electricity Minister Arcot N. Veerasamy alleged that Dayanidhi had threatened the State Home Secretary S. Malathi after the violence in Madurai. "Our Minister in the [Union] Cabinet threatens the Home Secretary and warns that if she is not going to maintain law and order, he will meet the President and give a letter."

The Madurai police have filed cases under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Explosive Substances Act, and so on. Seven persons, including the main accused, "Attack" Pandi, have been arrested and charged under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC. In other cases, 13 persons, including Mayor Thenmozhi, her husband K. Gopinathan and former Mayor P. Kulandaivelu, who either surrendered in court or were arrested, have been let out on bail.


Traffic violations on the rise in Puducherry

Traffic violations on the rise in Puducherry

Rajesh Nair

About 30,000 cases were booked during 2006: official

"The drive will be further intensified by deploying more traffic personnel"

— Photo: T. Singaravelou

VEHICLE CHECK: Traffic police personnel checking vehicles at Odiansalai in Puducherry on Saturday.

PUDUCHERRY: In spite of an intensive drive, with the burgeoning vehicle population, traffic violations are on the rise in Puducherry.

The enormity can be gauged by the fact that the Government had collected about Rs.26.5 lakh through court fine for various offences during 2006.

This whopping amount was collected despite a low conviction rate (read prosecution for imposing the fine). About 30,000 cases were booked during the period, and about 10,000 offenders were fined in the court.

The remaining cases are pending, Superintendent of Police (Traffic) S. Kuppusamy told The Hindu .

The violations include driving without a licence, improper parking, using mobile phone while driving, drunken driving and jumping red lines.

As most of the offenders get away without paying the fine because of the delay in prosecution, the traffic police, during the last two months, made it compulsory to produce the offenders before the magistrate on the day they were caught after filing a charge sheet, Mr. Kuppusamy said.

"From April, the offenders are produced before the court on the day of the offence. This was done except on Saturday and Sunday, when there is no proceedings," he said.

Statistics available with the Traffic Department shows that though 1,736 cases were booked, none was convicted. In April, when they started the new system, 651 offenders were punished out of the 1,227 cases booked. As on May 24, 2,803 cases were booked and 830 offenders punished.

"The low conviction this month was because the magistrate was on leave for a few days," Mr. Kuppusamy also noted.

He said the plan was to have at least 70 per cent conviction by the end of the year so that "booking of cases would become meaningful in bringing down incidents of violations".

He said in the coming days the drive would be further intensified by deploying more traffic personnel.

He also warned of stringent action against those owners, who park vehicles on no-parking zones. The imposition of the fine amount is the discretionary power of the magistrate.

Normally, a minimum of Rs.1,000 was imposed for drunken driving, Rs.500 for not having license and between Rs.100 to Rs.400 for other traffic violations.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu


Family Politics

Family Politics

Families that mean business

By B.Kolappan

For long attention has been centred on the sibling war between Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's sons M.K. Stalin and M.K. Azhagiri, and little thought was given to the ambition apparently nurtured by the Maran brothers. The day that Mr Azhagiri's supporters ran amok in Madurai, resulting in the death of three employees of the Maran-owned Dinakaran newspaper, the impression created was that the chief minister's older son was at it again. He was thought to be enraged by a survey in the newspaper that projected his brother Stalin as the heir-apparent, leaving him with a popular support of just around two per cent. But in reality the brothers had patched up and are now supporting their step-sister Kanimozhi's Rajya Sabha prospects.

The new twist in the DMK's family politics became clear when the chief minister disowned the Maran brothers and defended Mr Azhagiri. For all his powerful Sun TV, money power and lineage - his father, a DMK veteran, was nephew and confidante of Karunanidhi - Dayanidhi had to bite the dust after the Dinakaran episode. While Mr Karunanidhi maintains that the DMK elects its leader democratically, there is hardly anyone in the DMK who can challenge Stalin's authority. Almost all the district secretaries are his nominees or loyalists He decided the parties which the DMK was to strike an alliance with in the 2001 Assembly elections.

Mr Stalin, however, has emerged as a powerful centre in the party. Today he is the powerful local administration minister and is the fourth seniormost minister in the Karunanidhi Cabinet. The family's grip over the party organisation tightened after the Vaiko episode in the Nineties. Mr Vaiko, then known as V. Gopalsamy, posed a challenge to Stalin's leader ship in the party. When he was expelled on the ground that he undertook a secret journey to Jaffna to meet LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran, nine of the district secretaries of the 31 district secretaries threw their weight behind him. Mr Vaiko claimed that he enjoyed the support of the majority of the members of the general council. Mr Karunanidhi convened the general council meeting of the party in Thanjavur in 1993 to disprove this. Only around 120 members of the 1,200 odd members supported Mr Vaiko at the meeting. But the support by nine district secretaries came as a surprise and the party leadership started paying attention to the election of district secretaries to ensure that they were loyal to the Karunanidhi and Stalin.

Today there is hardly any district secretary who will go against Mr Stalin. Even in the local basic units it is very difficult to spot an antiStalin element. In Madurai, brother Mr Azhagiri is a force to reckon with. He decides the office-bearers in the district and has his representatives in the Cabinet.

"When a doctor's son becomes a doctor and a lawyer's son becomes a lawyer what should prevent a politician's son from following in his father's footsteps? Family is an inseparable part of Dravidian politics.

The late Periyar's family members were in politics. Family members of senior leaders like late Nedunchezhian, N.V. Natarajan and Mathiazhagan were also in politics. But only a few outshine the others," argues T.K.S. Elangovan, organisation secretary of the DMK.

A IADMK is a different family saga. But family politics in the AIADMK takes on a different meaning. Family here refers to the family of party supremo Jayalalithaa's confidante Sasikala's family members. Ms Sasikala's name evokes fear and respect in the minds of partymen. Though she functions as a back-room influence, her family members call the shots in the party at various levels. Her three nephews, Dinakaran, Bhaskaran and Sudhakaran, once dominated the party. Mr Dinakaran was an MP. Ms Jayalalithaa even went to the extent of adopting Mr Sudhakaran as her foster son and organised a mega ostentatious wedding for him. Subsequently they fell out and Ms Jayalalithaa had him booked him under the Narcotics Act. Ms Sasikala is lying low for the moment. But no one underestimates her role in the party.

Politics genetic for Gandhis By Venkatesh for Gandhis New Delhi:The Congress represents the quintessential aspect of the Gandhis having made politics their business. It is referred to more popularly as dynastic politics. It has become an asset as well as a liability for the party which once shaped the destiny of the country after Independence. Problems arose when Indira Gandhi concentrated power in her hands and systematically sidelined regional leaders and told the rank and file that her charisma could do the trick. This made the rank and file complacent. Her assassination in 1984 saw an unprecedented mandate for son Rajiv which also helped the growing halo of the first family.

The family gave the country three Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv. As the party relied on the first family for charisma to gain power, the organisation failed to realise that it cannot survive merely on symbolism and a glorious past.

The plight of the grand old party in the Hindi heartland for the past two decades is a telling commentary on its dependence on the first family and how lack of a charismatic leader affects the organisation.

Even after its second split in 1978, the party was virtu ally led by the family, with the exceptions of P.V. Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri.

Besides Sanjay Gandhi, Vijay Lakshmi Pandit (daughter of Motilal Nehru) and Nayantara Sehgal (daughter of Vijay Lakshmi) had also played active roles in politics. And now, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi are following their footsteps. This is perhaps a unique example in India where members of the same family remained in the lime light, holding positions in the government and outside.

The grand old party not only survives but thrives on sycophancy of the first family, no matter whether it is relevant in the 21st century. The family is hailed as the glue that ensured the unity of the party right from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru. The fate of the family and party is so interlinked that loyalists believe that only a Nehru-Gandhi family can keep the party together and keep it afloat politically.

Deccan Chronicle

I will fight for women empowerment: Kanimozhi

"I will fight for women empowerment"

By R.Bhagwan Singh

Chennai, May 27: When chief minister M. Karunanidhi announced the DMK decision opting for his poet daughter Kanimozhi as one of the two nominees of the party for the Rajya Sabha, he brought to close one of the longest political speculations in recent times in Tamil Nadu.

A well-known public face albeit on the Tamil literarycultural platform, Ms Kanimozhi is a reluctant entrant to politics and has kept herself busy with socio-cultural and literary engagements besides being a doting mother to a very demanding sevenyear-old Adityan. Even a couple of months back, she was against a political career, but circumstances have obviously pushed her to take up a political career.

Interestingly, AIADMK supremo Ms Jayalalithaa too had been a reluctant entrant to politics, pushed to the centerstage by her matinee hero M. G. Ramachandran, when he needed a young and bright face to campaign for his party. And she too had her debut in public life through the Rajya Sabha, impressing the ‘elders' of the Capital with her English oratory. With a Masters in Business Economics, Ms Kanimozhi can be expected to perform just as well, drawing from her huge advantage of growing up in the shadow of one of the shrewdest politicians in post-independent India. Incidentally, both the women did their schooling in the famous Presentation Convent, Church Park, in the city. "This is my first step into active politics. I am overwhelmed by the confidence reposed in me by my party and leaders. I will perform to my best ability, taking up issues of the poor, fighting for women's empowerment and the 33 per cent reservation for them," said Ms Kanimozhi, reacting to her father's announcement of the party's decision to send her to the Rajya Sabha.

Asked whether she would be the DMK's voice in Delhimany in the media have predicted she would fill the vacuum of ‘discredited' nephew Dayanidhi Maran-Ms Kanimozhi shot back, "I don't have to be the party's voice or representative at the Centre as there are enough voices there."

What are the chances of her becoming a Minister, since the DMK is still keeping one Cabinet berth vacant after Mr Maran's exit? "I am not open for Cabinet berth and I don't think the party will say that either," replied the 39-year-old poet activist, arguing that it would be unfair to read too much into her turning to politics and concluding it as yet another instance of dynastic politics, since "we have grown up with politics" and social work inevitably led to political career at some point in life.

Though she and her father have discounted the possibility of her getting into the Central Cabinet, speculation continues strong that Ms Kanimozhi could be sworn in before the end of the year. But what she perhaps holds as a bigger priority at the moment is to complete what she calls the magnum opus of her life, a documentary on the literary-socialpolitical innings of her father.
Deccan Chronicle

People warn of stir against Helmets

People warn of stir against Helmets

By Our Correspondent

Madurai, May 26:Various consumer protection organisations in Madurai have demanded the Tamil Nadu government extend the deadline for introducing the helmet rule for two wheeler and pillion riders.

They said that they would launch a campaign for this and work against the candidate supported by the DMK in the Madurai west constituency by-election, if the government failed to concede their demand.

Speaking to reporters in Madurai on Saturday, president of the Madurai Consumer Protection Council Mr S Tamilarasan recalled that it was the same DMK government, which had withdrawn the order on the wearing of helmets in 1989.

"We are not against the wearing of helmets but we want the government to leave it to the discretion of the riders, rather than forcing them to do so, " he said, and added that many of the two wheeler riders belonged to the middle and lower middle class strata of society, and buying helmet would be a financial burden for them. They would also be harassed by policemen if the rule was brought in, as they unreasonably impose fines on them, he argued.

He said that if the government did not postpone the enforcement of the rule, their organisation would form Two Wheeler Riders Welfare Associations in all the wards of the Madurai West constituency and work against the candidate supported by the DMK and even go to the extent of not voting, he said.

Mr S V Pathy, secretary of the All India Human Rights Organisation said that many medical professionals had clarified that wearing a helmet could be physically detrimental to the rider, instead of saving their lives in an accident "People using spectacles can have distorted vision due to tilting of the vision axis," he claimed.

Mr A K Ramasamy, secretary of the Madurai Bar Association said that advocates and consumer welfare organisations would launch a stir in front of all the district court premises throughout the state on May 30, if the government did not change its mind on forcing people to wear helmets.
Deccan Chronicle

Monday, May 21, 2007

Money Lenders Act applicable to NBFCs: Kerala HC

Money Lenders Act applicable to non-banking financial institutions

Staff Reporter

High Courtround-up

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday held that the provisions under the Kerala Money Lenders Act were applicable to the non-banking financial institutions in the State.

Justice K. Balakrishnan Nair made the ruling while dismissing a batch of writ petitions seeking to declare that the Act would not be applicable to their institutions.

The petitioners contended that the non-banking institutions were established under the Reserve Bank of India Act. Therefore, it would not come under the provisions of the Kerala Money Lenders Act. No company could carry on the business of money lending or other non-banking activities such as hire purchase lending without getting registration from the RBI. These activities were regulated by the RBI.

The Judge observed that the provisions of the State law were meant to safeguard the interest of borrowers. The State law mandated the institutions to obtain licence for using the deposits.

Interest rate

The Judge observed that the Government notification fixing the rate of interest chargeable by moneylenders at the maximum limit of 12 per cent would apply to such types of loans for which the interest rate levied by the commercial banks was around 10 per cent. The court, while disposing of certain petitions filed by money lenders against the notification, made it clear that in all other cases where interest rate of the commercial loan was above 12 per cent, the petitioners could ignore the notification.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu


Insurance firm's CRP dismissed: NCDRC

Insurance firm's revision petition dismissed by national consumer forum


Case relates to reimbursement of Rs. 2.30 lakh to a person

CHENNAI: The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has dismissed a revision petition by Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., challenging the order of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC) confirming a District Forum's order directing the company to reimburse a person Rs.2.30 lakh.

In its order, a Circuit Bench of NCDRC comprising the president, Justice M.B.Shah and member, Rajyalakshmi Rao, did not accept the insurance company's submission that the District Forum and the State Commission ought to have referred to and relied upon the surveyor's report. As per the report, the complainant was entitled to only Rs.56,997 on repair basis or Rs.50,000 on total loss basis.

The Bench said the surveyor's report appeared to have been made as a self-serving report.

No error

Considering the report of the Motor Vehicle Inspector, authorised service station and the surveyor's report, it could not be said the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Tiruchirappalli or the SCDRC committed any error in passing the impugned order holding that the insurance company was liable to settle the claim on total loss basis.

In view of the evidence produced on record, the surveyor's report loses its importance because it was half-hearted.

The surveyor assessed the loss on the assumption that the vehicle's market value was about Rs. one lakh.

He had not stated reasons for arriving at his assessment.

The Bench concluded that in the present case, the vehicle was purchased in 1995. It was heavily damaged due to accident within three-and-a half years. That was also noted by the surveyor.

The District Forum and SCDRC assessed the loss on total loss basis and the sum assured was taken as its market value.

From the sum assured of Rs.2.80 lakh, the salvage value of Rs.50,000 as assessed by the surveyor was reduced and the District Forum directed the insurance company to reimburse to the complainant, M. Rathnamani, Rs.2.30 lakh. That was affirmed by the SCDRC, the Circuit Bench said and dismissed the revision petition.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu


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