Chennai First a Celebration. Positive News, Facts & Achievements about Chennai, Tamilians and all the People of TamilNadu – here at Home and Overseas
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    The spices shop at the State Secretariat. | Photo Credit: B_JOTHI RAMALINGAM

    The spices shop at the State Secretariat. | Photo Credit: B_JOTHI RAMALINGAM

    New retail outlet sells forest produce sourced from Doddabetta

    The Secretariat complex is more than just a cluster of government offices. The nearly 6,000 salaried staff who work there as well as the thousands who visit the offices make the complex a bazaar where a range of products — from vegetables through junk jewellery to snacks — can be bought.

    Jostling for space at the Secretariat is a shop whose products are a heady mix — spices and medicinal oils. On a day when the demand for grants of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department was being debated at the Assembly, the department had opened a retail outlet selling produce sourced from the Medicinal Plant Development Area (MPDA) at Doddabetta.

    The star attraction at the shop was a set of eleven varieties of spices, such as cloves, black pepper and star anise, packaged in sachets and priced at ₹ 160. “You can also buy them separately,” said S. Ashok, who runs the shop.

    Variety of products

    The shop also sells eucalyptus oil, lemon grass oil, camphor oil, citriodora oil, teatree oil and many others. The price of these concentrated oils is between ₹ 90 and ₹140 per 50 ml. “You can apply them directly or mix them with other oils,” added Mr. Ashok.

    Making a strong pitch for the products, Mr. Ashok said the wintergreen oil that is sold in the shop can relieve arthritis. “If you cannot get relief from this oil, there is nothing else in the world that can cure your arthritis,” said Mr. Ashok. The Forest Department runs a similar outlet at Vandalur too.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Tamil Nadu / by B. Kolappan / Chennai – June 15th, 2017

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    Chennai :

    More than 120 seed conserving farmers from 15 states across the country have congregated on the Anna University campus here to showcase a variety of quality seeds of different crops such as paddy, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables besides cotton as part a three-day National Seed Diversity Festival.

    The festival began on Friday.

    Stalls in the festival display rare varieties of seeds with exceptional qualities such as drought tolerance, submergence tolerance and nutritional superiority across different types of crops.

    In all, more than 3,000 varieties of seeds are on exhibition at the venue.

    The festival is organised by Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), and this is the fourth edition of the festival. The first three editions of the festival were held in New Delhi, Chandigarh and Hyderabad during the last three years.

    Highlighting the importance of crop diversity and traditional seed varieties, both for farmer’s livelihood and consumer health, are the two main objectives with which the festival is being organized.

    Experts will talk about agriculture and health during the festival. It also has traditional food, stalls, terrace gardening session, pottery training and sales, natural dyeing, hand spinning, seed ball making, drinking water purification, composting techniques, traditional games and activity spaces for children.

    source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / by P. Oppili / June 09th, 2017

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    Rebecca Paul firmly believes in an organic way of life

    Rebecca Paul firmly believes in an organic way of life

    Rebecca Paul says making organic soaps is not difficult and it certainly need not be so expensive

    Rebecca Paul’s foray into organic soap making came courtesy of her sister. Paul, who had worked in sales and marketing in Chennai for over five years, was taking a break after the birth of her first child. “I was bored and didn’t know what to do with myself. My sister signed me up for a workshop,” she giggles. “She didn’t even tell me till that morning when she pushed me out of the house.”

    The other factor that led her to take this seriously was the fact that her baby had sensitive skin. “I tried all kinds of branded stuff but nothing helped, not even the green gram flour that we traditionally use. Finally I started making specific soaps for him and that’s when we began to see a difference.” This led her husband Deepak also to start using her soaps and, when she realised that it was helping him as well, Paul plunged whole heartedly into the business of making organic soaps.

    Her initial products were gifted to family and friends and slowly, as word spread, she began getting other customers. “I started with a sample pack, which had nine different varieties. So that allowed people to choose the variety they wanted. And the orders started to come in.” A large portion of her orders comes from Coimbatore but she has sent her stuff to places like Chennai and Andaman Islands. “One person who was using my soaps went to Dubai and continues to order from there,” she smiles. Paul retails through her Facebook page, The Kraft Farm, and in various exhibitions.


    Her soaps are made of two different processes: cold processed and melt-and-pour. The latter is easier, so she teaches that at her workshops. “A readymade base is available, so one just has to melt and add the other ingredients, fragrances and colours. It’s so simple, even a child can make one.” Ask about the problem of sourcing ingredients and Paul returns a vehement “that’s easy. It’s convincing people that’s difficult.” But a lot of people are going organic, I protest. She agrees but points out that most people assume that such products are expensive. “So when I charge ₹60 or ₹70 for a soap of 100gm, they don’t believe it’s fully organic. When I set up a stall at exhibitions, I am constantly dealing with this question: ‘how can you say it’s organic when your prices are so low?’”

    The other problem is fragrances. “In commercial soaps, the fragrance lasts till the last bit. But I use essential oils, which evaporate when exposed to heat. So sometimes that becomes an issue. I prefer to make according to the customer’s requirement, so I ask if they want it heavily scented or mildly.”

    She has started holding workshops as well. “It’s a way to encourage people to go organic. I offer to help those who want to continue. If they need ingredients, I help them source it. Or even if they want to sell.” She goes on to narrate how one lady — who was speech- and hearing-impaired — was using this as a way to earn some extra money. “She texted to say that she had bought her daughter a gift with the money she made. It made me feel good,” she says softly. She is also working with the Indian Superheroes, a group of organic farmers from tribal and rural communities of South India, to train them and their families to make products that are then retailed on their website.

    She’s also looking at increasing the number of products. “I’ve started trials of the body butter. So that should be out soon. I’m also hoping to introduce lip balm, lotion bars, beard wax for guys… I have to explain the concept of lotion bars. Not many people know about it. But still…,” she shrugs, “There’s a lot you can do with organic beauty products.”

    In a lather

    Most popular soaps: Goat’s milk, Shea butter, Aloe Vera and Honey

    Natural colours: Turmeric for yellow, beetroot powder for red/pink, annatto seeds for orange, neem/spirulina for green, activated charcoal for black

    Other products: Yarn lanterns, string art, beeswax candles, painted t-shirts

    More details: Visit

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    Ramesh painting at a house

    Ramesh painting at a house

    Chennai :

    As he scrapes the walls of my house, he begins talking in English. Prod him, and he says he was a practical guide to 27 PhD students until a few years ago. Meet Ramesh, who is popularly known as ‘organic’ Ramesh. Now a painter, he was a field assistant at some colleges in the city. “I started out as a teenager in New College where I helped students with their lab works and assignments. My professors saw my interest in soil, trees and worms, and encouraged me to pursue organic farming,” he says.
    He is a known face to the residents of Adyar, where he is regularly seen with a shovel and a sapling. “I give a sapling to anyone I meet. I believe everyone should grow their own trees, even if it’s a bonsai,” he smiles.
    Ask him about his interest in nature and farming, and he says, “When I saw a worm, I used to analyse it rather than shoving it away. Slowly my interest piqued. As I grew up, I started attending every lecture on zoology, horticulture and agriculture,” says this school dropout.

    Ramesh used to spend several hours at the lab where he would explore structures of different organisms under the microscope. He admits he never knew any language other than Tamil when he started working in the college. Narrating an experience of working along with an American to learn about the biogas plant, Ramesh says, “New College had just bought a biogas plant and no one knew how to use it. A professor asked me to learn the procedure from the American and I did. Back then, when someone spoke in English, all I did was nod my head. I was dubbed thalaiaati bommai. That’s when I realised the importance of learning a language,” he says as he explains the cedure in English.

     Over the years, Ramesh has helped set up biogas plants, vermicompost pit, organic plants, kitchen garden terrace garden, across homes, schools and colleges. Personal setbacks and fallouts with a few higher authorities led him to take up painting. “Zoology was all I knew. It was only later that I took the painting brush. Initially, when I started painting, I used to cry all day. But now I enjoy it,” he says.

    Ramesh is still the star wherever he goes. He has clients all over the city for whom he helps set up organic gardens. “I procure all my materials from a farm in ECR. That’s the only place I trust,” he says adding that anyone can become adept in organic farming. “Avoid plastics and fertilisers. I recommend lesser use of soil and more of cocopith, neem cakes, lipstick (a solution made using honey and neem oil to attract pests which are then killed by the neem solution) as disinfectant and panchakaviyam,” he says claiming that the latter was his innovation. “As I loved to experiment, I made this liquid fertiliser using curd, buttermilk, cow dung, cow urine and banana.”

    Dismissing the myth that certain trees will not grow in the Chennai climate, Ramesh says, “When you make use of less soil, you can grow any kind of plant you want.”

    To set up your garden, call 7092195939


    Avoid pots. Grow your trees in grow bags.

    Make sure you have a vermicompost pit with red soil in your garden.Use cocopith and natural elements to enhance plant growth.If you wish to have a terrace garden, apply cooling oil on the terrace before placing your plants. This helps cool your house and prevents water from pots seeping into your homes.

    source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Chennai / by Anushree Madhavan / by Express News Service / May 08th, 2017

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    Honoured Dr Vikram Singh's work has been recognised with the BIRAC Gandhian Young Technological Innovation award.

    Honoured Dr Vikram Singh’s work has been recognised with the BIRAC Gandhian Young Technological Innovation award.

    This could be used in applications such as tunable laser, LEDs and white light display

    Dr. Vikram Singh, former research scholar in the Department of Chemistry, IIT Madras won the BIRAC Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (GYTI) Award 2017 for his work on producing white light emission using natural extracts.

    Dr. Singh and Prof. Ashok Mishra from the Department of Chemistry, IIT Madras used a mixture of two natural extracts — red pomegranate and turmeric — to produce white light emission. The researchers used a simple and environment-friendly procedure to extract dyes from pomegranate and turmeric.

    While polyphenols and anthocyanins present in red pomegranate emit at blue and orange-red regions of the wavelength respectively, curcumin from turmeric emit at the green region of the wavelength. White light emission is produced when red, blue and green mix together. This is probably the first time white light emission has been generated using low-cost, edible natural dyes. The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

    “We had to mix the two extracts in a particular ratio to get white light,” says Dr. Singh, the first author of the paper; he is currently at Lucknow’s CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI). By changing the concentration of the two extracts the researchers were able to get different colour temperature (tunability).

    “When we mix the two extracts and irradiate it with UV radiation at 380 nm, we observed energy transfer (FRET mechanism) taking place from polyphenols to curcumin to anthocyanins, which helps to get perfect white light emission,” says Dr. Singh. For FRET mechanism to take place there must be spectral overlap between the donor and acceptor.

    Energy transfer

    In this case, there is a perfect overlap of emission of polyphenols with absorption by curcumin so the energy from polyphenols is transferred to curcumin. Since there is also a perfect overlap of emission of curcumin with absorption by anthocyanin, the energy of curcumin is transferred to anthocyanin.

    As a result of this energy transfer from one dye to the other, when the extract is irradiated with UV light at 380 nm (blue region of the wavelength), the polyphenols emit in the blue region of the wavelength and transfers its energy to curcumin. The excited curcumin emits in the green region of the wavelength and transfers its energy to anthocyanin, which emits light in the red region of the wavelength.

    “Because of the energy transfer, even if you excite in the blue wavelength we were able to get appropriate intensity distribution across the visual wavelength,” says Prof. Mishra, who is the corresponding author of the paper.

    Without turmeric

    Taking the work further, the duo produced carbon nanoparticles using pomegranate and to their surprise it was producing fairly green emission. So instead of using turmeric to get green wavelength, the researchers used carbon nanoparticles made from pomegranate extract. “We could get white emission, though it is not as white as when we use turmeric. It’s slightly bluish but well within the white zone,” says Prof. Mishra. “It is an attractive to use a single plant source to create white light emission.” The principle by which the pomegranate extract and carbon nanoparticles made from the extract is the same as in the case when pomegranate and turmeric extracts were used. The results were published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry C.

    Though this natural mixture of dyes can be used in a wide variety of applications such as tunable laser, LEDs, white light display, much work needs to be done in terms of photostability and chemical stability before it becomes ready for translation. Biosystems have an inherent tendency to breakdown and so this has to be addressed.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Sci-Tech> Science / by R. Prasad / May 06th, 2017

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    At the cattle shed in P. Chellandipalayam, Karur district. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    At the cattle shed in P. Chellandipalayam, Karur district. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    Meet the man who has devoted his life to saving some of those now-famous native cattle breeds in his farm in the heart of Tamil Nadu.

    A dappled calf saunters up. I offer it my hand. It nuzzles and then proceeds to lick it. Another joins it, and yet another. I am enjoying the attention — until a sudden tug distracts me. A tiny mouth has just begun nibbling the tassels of my cotton dupatta. I beat a hasty retreat, almost landing ankle-deep in a mound of steaming dung.

    Ganesan laughs and pats the head of the calf that has just tried to eat up my dupatta. “This calf belongs to the Gir breed,” he says, drawing my attention to the convex forehead and pendulous ears distinctive to the breed whose origins lie, as the name suggests, in the Gir forest region of Gujarat.

    C. Ganesan is a slender, bespectacled man, wearing a dhoti, blue shirt and ready smile. He runs what he calls an “experimental farm” in P. Chellandipalayam in Karur district of Tamil Nadu, the state that exploded with the jallikattu protests some weeks ago. Among the arguments extended by the fans of this rather cruel bull race was that native breeds of cattle could be protected through the sport. Experts spoke of how Indian cattle had vanished and of the higher nutrient content in the milk of these cows.

    Despite the argument, the truth is that most cattle raised for dairy farming in India is imported from abroad. Since these breeds are reported to yield much higher quantities of milk, they are found more suitable for commercial use.

    A Sahiwal and a Rathi calf. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    A Sahiwal and a Rathi calf. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    There is merit in wanting to protect the hardier native breeds from extinction, but clearly the solution lies in efforts that are far more effective, committed and enduring than jallikattu. The 69-year-old Ganesan is among a handful of cattle breeders in India making that effort.

    The road that leads to Ganesan’s farm is a kaccha, vertigo-inducing path flanked by arid, patchy coconut groves, rust-coloured rocks, and acres of barren paddy fields. Thorny scrub give way to worn fences but they offer scant protection from the marauding peacocks, complains Ganesan, “I really need to fence these fields properly,” he says with a shrug.

    Ganesan set up his farm some 13 years ago to prove that Indian breeds can give high yields of milk, more than 15 litres a day: “My cows produce copious quantities of milk and like all other local breeds have excellent immunity.” His farm has only indigenous breeds. Besides Gir, there is Sahiwal and Tharparkar (named after the Pakistani towns of their origin), a few buffaloes, the local Kangayam breed, and a few head of Thalacherry goat.

    Ganesan’s family also owns a textile business but farming is in their blood. “Agriculture is our ancestral occupation and we have been keeping cattle for a long time,” he says. Earlier, the genial farmer’s animals were Jersey cross-breeds. “The government recommends a mix of 65% Jersey with 35% native breed of cattle, but this is hard for farmers to maintain,” he explains. “Proper breeding management doesn’t happen in India.”

    Then, in 2003, he lost five Jersey cross-bred cows very suddenly, “They have poor immunity and one had to keep replacing them,” he says. That’s when he began to convert exotic cross-breeds into desi. “I purchased a few desi animals — around 10 Tharparkar cows. Also, I began inseminating my Jersey cross-bred cows with semen samples taken from pure Indian breeds.”

    At the cattle shed in P. Chellandipalayam, Karur district. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    At the cattle shed in P. Chellandipalayam, Karur district. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    There are over 50 heads of pure Indian cattle on his farm now — of various colours, shapes and sizes. A newly born calf totters up as we approach while its mother fixes us with a steely gaze and lowers her horns. Pitch-black buffaloes swill down water and bellow; red and white cows stick their heads into feeding troughs; gambolling calves behind wire-netting peer curiously at us.

    “The easiest way to identify a desi breed is by the hump,” says Ganesan. And yes, all humped cattle produce milk rich in the much-touted A2 milk protein. A2 milk is excellent for children, he says, adding that it helps brain function and promotes growth. The fodder, culled from the fields around him, does not have pesticide and unlike commercial establishments he does not inject his cows with oxytocin injections to induce lactation, “My grandchildren refuse to drink any other milk or curd,” he laughs, as he leads me into his sparse office where a hot cup of tea made with freshly-drawn milk awaits.

    Milk, however, is only a by-product of Ganesan’s experiment, “This is not a commercial farm — it is only a model one,” he says, explaining that he sells his milk at the ridiculously low rate of ₹30 per litre, “It must be the lowest rate in Tamil Nadu,” he grins. But the milk reaches his customers within two hours of milking.

    What Ganesan really wants to prove is that native Indian breeds are more than capable of producing milk on a commercial scale. “The government doesn’t work at improving their milk capacity. Even breeds like Kangayam, which are not traditionally bred for milk, can produce up to six litres a day if the breeding is done properly.”

    According to him, the best sort of cattle comes from artificial insemination done right. Getting high quality semen samples can be challenging. Ganesan currently gets his frozen samples from the National Dairy Development Board. “Once we get good animals, the milk is automatically better.”

    And what role can jallikattu play in preserving desi breeds, I ask. “Those bulls are not really used for breeding — they are trained to be ferocious,” he says, and adds, “Anyway, jallikattu is not about preserving local breeds, it is about men proving themselves.”

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture> Cattle Class / by Preeti Zachariah / February 04th, 2017

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    Coimbatore :

    Former director of Centre for Plant Molecular Biology at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University S Sadasivam on Wednesday released a book – “Genetically Modified Crops: A Scientist’s Perspective.”

    The book aims at creating awareness about the advantages of GM crops among people and farmers.

    President of Association Of Biotechnology Led Enterprises- Agriculture Focus Group (ABLE-AG), P Murali released the book, and the chairman of Rasi Seeds, M Ramasami, received the first copy.

    Speaking about his book, Sadasivam said, “I was in academia and research from 1964 to 2011. Teaching was my passion and research was my interest. However, popularisation of science was the third dimension in my career.”

    He further said, “Since 1964, I have participated in radio programmes discussing science and technology. I have authored six books so far. This one too is an attempt to make people aware about the benefits of genetically modified crops.”

    The book is short and has four chapters. The book is written in Tamil so that it can reach out to the local farmers. The book talks about gene, theories of evolution and the introduction of genetically modified crops. “It is not a textbook material. It is written as a conversation between a scientist and a common man,” said Sadasivam.

    Vouching for genetically modified crops, Sadasivam said that a group of 107 Nobel Laureates have recently passed a resolution that GM crops are safe. “There are regulatory bodies and the central and state governments have deeply accessed the advantages and consequences of GM crops. We need more research in the area of GM crops to address the growing needs of food and grain shortage,” said Sadasivam.

    ABLE-AG has published Sadasivam’s book. Executive director of ABLE-AG Shivendra Bajaj said, “About two-three states have stalled research on GM crops. While others have not banned it, they are either positive about it or are evaluating the pro and cons.”

    Ramasami said that Bangladesh has been cultivating Bt Brinjal for more than three years now. “Bangladesh has acquired all the data from India’s research and has begun cultivating it,” said Ramasami. The only GM crop cultivated in India is Bt Cotton .

    source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Coimbatore News / by Adarsh Jain / February 15th, 2017

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    Chennai :

    Chennai-based Manikandan calls bees his best friend! Fondly known among the apiarists (beekeepers) as Honey Mani, this apiarist maintains almost 25 modern beehives (artificial beehives) in and around the city and says that he does it for.

    Until 2008, Mani, like most people, was terrified of bees, because of all the reported fatalities. It was Swami Nathan, another beekeeper from the city who changed his attitude towards apiculture, he narrates, “In 2008, I visited Swami’s house. He worked at the airport and I was also recruited there to work in duty-free shops.”

    “I saw several weird looking boxes and when I went to take a look, a bee flew out!” After a week of observing his mentor interacting with and behaving around the bees, Mani decided to learn the art.

    “He was kind enough to teach me and also lent me a box with six frames in it (to house the bees). The hive is built over these frames with a strip of wax in between. I was intrigued and after a point, I wasn’t even scared. Now I can manage them even if they are aggressive!” he beams.

    After completing basic school education, he says he quit academics to support his family. “Later, I got the job at the airport, but I found my true happiness in beekeeping,” he grins.

    “When I deliver the beehive boxes to clients…the happiness I feel is indescribable. Especially after a few months, when I go for extraction, I have no words. I extracted almost two kilos of honey for a customer and he was so happy!”

    Talking about the dangers involved, he points out, “When you let your hand in to extract the honey, make sure you don’t disrupt the queen bee. If you are stung, don’t make any sudden movements or pull your hand out fast.”

    So, does he want to be a full-time beekeeper someday? “Someday… maybe. I am not doing this for money and you can’t expect to earn much from this. I am looking for a fulltime job. Beekeeping is mostly misunderstood and my aim is to educate people more,” he adds.

    To contact ‘Honey Mani’ call: 9750145565

    source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Chennai / by Roshne B / Express News Service / February 15th, 2017

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    Chennai :

    Veteran agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan has been presented with the Canadian governor general’s medallion in recognition of his contribution to “improved agricultural practices and rural development in India and abroad.”

    Consulate general of Canada in Bengaluru Jennifer Daubeny handed over the medallion on behalf of H E David Johnston, governor general of Canada, at a meeting held at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation  (MSSRF) in Chennai on Monday.

    Daubeny presented the medallion and citation that placed on record the “profound impact” of research being conducted at the MSSRF.

    Daubeny said she was glad of the partnership between and various agencies of the government of Canada and the impact it had on rural development.

    Speaking at the event, M S Swaminathan said, “Only collaboration can solve many problems.”

    source: / The Times of India / News> City News>  Chennai News / TNN / February 08th, 2017

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    Chennai :

    Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday said 35,104 bio-toilets have been provided on trains and 30,000 more such toilets will installed in the current financial year.

    The minister was speaking after inaugurating country’s first green corridor – the stretch between Rameswaram and Manamadurai — through video conferencing from Chennai Central railway station.

    All the trains running on the section have bio-toilets. This has eliminated human defecation on the tracks.

    The minister also inaugurated an upgraded free Wi-Fi at Chennai Central which uses 99 antennae provided by Google. The Wi-Fi was part of a larger plan to digitally connect Indians, a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prabhu said.

    He made a fervent appeal to the Tamil Nadu government to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the railways and to participate in railway infrastructure projects.

    “All your neighbouring states have signed memoranda with railways. I’ve written a letter to honourable chief minister J Jayalalithaa for her support. I’m awaiting a positive response,” he said.
    Tamil Nadu has not yet signed the MoU with railways as it has demanded changes in the existing framework of rules under which a special purpose vehicle (SPV) would work.

    Prabhu said Royapuram station could be developed as a third terminal in the city under a joint-venture with the state government. “We want to make terminals which would have better passenger amenities than airports,” he said.

    source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Chennai / by Siddharth Prabhakar / TNN / July 24th, 2016

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