Advanced Kidney Dialysis of Bureaucrats in the Indian Ministries

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Last week due an acute kidney infection (actually God Only Knows), I had to be admitted to Mumbai’s Hinduja Hospital on emergency. “Your creatinine and potassium levels have gone real high – Dr Modak”. We will hold for a day but I will have to put you on a few cycles of dialysis” My doctor Dr Almeida said.


Dialysis is the artificial process of eliminating waste (diffusion) and unwanted water (ultrafiltration) from the blood. Our kidneys do this naturally. Some people, however, may have failed or damaged kidneys which cannot carry out the function properly – they may need dialysis. In other words, dialysis is the artificial replacement for lost kidney function (renal replacement therapy).

Dialysis may be used for patients who have become ill and have acute kidney failure (temporary loss of kidney function), or for fairly stable patients who have permanently lost kidney function

It’s like treatment of polluted waters.


Next night, I was inserted a shunt (catheter) in my neck and in the morning was brought to the AKD (Artificial Kidney Department).

AKD was a great and fun place to be. There were perhaps some 40 “bays” where dialysis was happening to 40 patients at the same time – each bay with a German make dialysis device that looked like a front loading washing machine, except with more buttons; more alarms and more blinking lights

Mr. Phatak who administrated this unit over past twenty years was moving across the bays with all the smiles and humor giving instructions to the technicians on “setting the targets etc.” Most patients were having a good time – some were listening to music or watching their favorite TV show or reading Bhagwat Geeta. Some women had come in a group and were waiting to go for shopping for the Diwali sale right after the dialysis.

I was about to be “wired” to one of the German machines, and just then Mr. Phatak received a call on his mobile phone that I be taken to a special (and secret) room for dialysis and that I will not be dialyzed in the  “common area” meant for “common people”.

I was soon moved to another floor through an elevator that had a password like in the movies of James Bond. I had no clue where I was getting wheeled.

The room I was brought in was different – instead of German machines, there were Chinese machines. That worried me a bit (Later I was told that these special machines were gifted by the Chinese Premier to our PM in the recent meeting in Goa and was a joint project between India and China – led by none but my Friend Professor).

And indeed there he was! I saw my Professor Friend standing in between the “bays” of the secret room waiting for me.

“Oh Dr Modak, I just learnt from Dr Almeida that you are to be dialyzed. I then thought of bringing you here so that you come to know some of the latest innovations I am currently working on – All pertaining to India’s sustainability”. Professor said this with some pride.

I knew about Professors deep research on ultrafiltration, nanotech and biomimicry and his numerous visits to Beijing over past five years. But he had not published – obviously on instructions of the PMO.

Well, Professor said, “All these “patients” – who are mostly bureaucrats in the Indian ministries, are really not “kidney affected” but are those who are simply affected by what I call as “policy paralysis” – This policy paralysis is leading to major obstacles in the vision of our PM on India’s Sustainability. Certain “toxic” constituents in their blood (some special ketones, undesirable enzymatic by-products and some variants of creatinine) make these otherwise “powerful” and “intelligent” bureaucrats, indifferent, petty minded and short sighted. They think of themselves first and are least bothered about the National interests – especially on sustainability. Policies they work on are often outdated – and even if they come up with good ones, these policies do not see any implementation. PM is really upset with such a dismal situation. How can India progress?

“I am using advanced techniques of dialysis to correct the situation – dialyze the key Indian bureaucrats to remove the “inhibitants” or “retarders” in the blood and get them out of the policy paralysis. I am also introducing a new generation of stimulants that work on the principle of sustained release for bringing the required attitudinal change”

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“My experience is that one cycle of dialysis is generally not enough. Given their “stubbornness”, you need on an average three cycles for these senior bureaucrats (i.e. Joint Secretaries and above) – but then pilots have shown that results have been quite encouraging. Some of the good stories of sustainable governance you might have read recently, are all due to my treatment based on advanced dialysis”

“So, I have designed five machines for this purpose”

Machine 1 focuses on integration of Resource and Residues – i.e. practicing Circular economy. In India, resources are allocated and managed by the Line Ministries and responsibility of addressing residues is left to the weakest ministry that is the Ministry of Environment & Forests & Climate Change. This is not going to work. We need Resources Management Act and not just Water (Act), Air (Act) and the Environmental Protection Act. The resources and residues piece must act in tandem to bring in the circular economy.

Machine 2 encourages bold, scientific, participatory and transparent policies and guidelines for Zoning/Siting of developmental projects. It will lead to “clarify” government’s position on permissible growth, where it could be and how could we blend development and environmental protection by carefully considering the appropriate scale and technology

The third dialysis machine helps to mainstream Environmental Economics where we develop markets that are mature – “price” the resources correctly (with no perverse subsidies) and Polluter (actually) pays

Machine 4 stimulates Sustainable Finance including considerations to climate change e.g. promotion of renewable sources of energy, building pipelines of programmatic projects with Entrepreneurship while capitalizing on climate change adaptation funds and innovations in GHG mitigation.

The fifth and the last dialysis machine is meant for actioning  Awareness, Education and Training in Environmental Management – an area most needed but highly neglected.

All this was really inspiring and transformational for bringing sustainable governance in India and removing the so called “obstacles” created by India’s bureaucrats –  But I was wondering about the Chinese interest. May be secretly, Chinese want our PM to follow long term development goals (that are actually ideal) but then ensure that in the process we do not “prosper” in the conventional sense. As a result, the Chinese economy will surpass India’s economic growth and influence or even take over the world economy. This will happen  over the short term of course – but then who cares? We run 5 year elections. I decided to express my concern.

Someone tapped on my shoulder. “Which machine type  would you like to join Dr Modak? The Professor was asking.

“Oh let him go back to Mr. Phatak’s hall meant for common people as of now – I just want to lower his creatinine and not revolutionize India” Dr Almeida said with a smile and asked the ward boys to wheel me down.


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Kingfishers on the beaches of Guhagar

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We have been married over 30 years now. But while being together we never had an opportunity to express our deep love and affection or to say words of love in peace and in serenity. Human life today is so occupied and complex – you live together but you often do not intersect with each other with your emotions that you want to cherish.

I tried to say my special feelings to my wife many times – but always found so difficult, artificial and sometimes irrelevant to say after our three decades of happy living together.

After my brief illness recently, we decided to take a break and spend holidays at a place that is quiet – just to relax and unwind. We decided to go to the beaches of Guhagar in Konkan – – a place to be with nature, stroll on the beaches and watch the birds that harbor, especially the Kingfisher.

Guhagar is situated on west coast of India between Sahyadri mountain range and Arabian Sea. Guhagar means cave house in local language. It’s a scenic town and a perfect tropical paradise. Long lonely beach with silky white sand is Guhagars major attraction. Guhagar is also known for bird watching.

We chose a cottage on a hillock overlooking the white sandy beaches. The cottage was an old bungalow with two rooms and a verandah with iron grill overlooking the beach. A place with no hustle bustle and rather discrete.

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Cottage and beaches of Guhagar

We reached the cottage from Mumbai after some six hours of road journey. It was already dark. We checked in after a 5 min of steep climb on the hillock as no cars were allowed to the cottage.

The caretaker had organized a great Konkani dinner with fish fried especially for my wife (mori masala) and a sol kadhi for me with ambol (Generally called as Poli)

I had carried a bottle of red wine and we had a glass of wine with cashew nuts along with the dinner siting in the verandah. A large antique lantern hanging from the ceiling, a whiff of parijatak flowers in the air and sound of the waves of the sea at a distance made a perfect dinner setting. We hit the bed early as we were too tired

I woke up feeling fresh. It was around 4 in the morning. I didn’t want to disturb my wife and so I decided go to down to the beach and take a walk. There was a sound of chirping of the birds slicing the silence occasionally.

The beach was deserted until I noticed two tall figures floating on the waves. I noticed a kind of hallow around them. When I reached closer, I realized that they were the Lords of Wind and the Seas.

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Lord of the Seas

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Lord of the Winds

The Lords smiled at me.

We spoke.

They listened to my problem of expression of love – and rather compassionately

“Why don’t you become a kingfisher for a while?” – They said. “We can make you one”

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The Oriental dwarf kingfisher also known as the black-backed kingfisher is found in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. This is a small, red and yellow kingfisher, averaging 13 cm in length, yellow underparts with glowing bluish-black upperparts. A widespread resident of lowland forest, it is endemic across much of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

Apparently, the winds and sea have a role in naming kingfishers in taxonomy after a classical Greek myth. The first pair of the mythical-bird kingfishers was created from a marriage of Alcyone and Ceyx. The story goes that Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, had a daughter named Alcyone, who was married to Ceyx, the king of Thessaly. Ceyx was drowned at sea and Alcyone threw herself into the waves in a fit of grief. The other gods, in an act of compassion, made them into birds, thus restoring them to their original seaside habitat. Thus, instead of drowning, Ceyx was transformed into a kingfisher bird and was carried to her husband by the wind. It is believed that the birds have power to calm the sea.


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The Lords said – “Once we transform you to a Kingfisher, just fly into the cottage and give your wife a magic kiss on her lips and flutter your wings for a while. And with your power of love, she will be transformed into a kingfisher too. Fly then together on this beach and you will discover how to express your love. In this process, both of you will be blessed. But don’t forget to return to the cottage before sunrise to get back to the form of human being”

I did what the Lords told me to do and transformed my wife into a Kingfisher. We then flew together towards the beach – floating in the still air and flying close to the waves. We made the chirping sounds to share our feelings – pure and simple – direct but subtle – in the silence of the morning. These sounds communicated more than thousands of words of emotions– that I was holding suppressed for years. This experience of releasing emotions was so blissful.

On our way, we saw some trees on the mountain side of the beach where there were many kingfishers like us perching. We decided to rest there for a while and be a part of them.

Now the sun was about to rise and I remembered that the Lords had warned me to return to the cottage in time to become human beings once again.

But after some thought, we decided not to return – and continue to remain as the kingfishers on the beaches of Guhagar. The Lords smiled.


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India’s True GDP

contaminatedland

I was sitting at the terrace of my billionaire friend at his 101st floor apartment in Mumbai. It was a Sunday morning. He had called me and my Professor Friend for a breakfast.

Did I ever tell you about this billionaire friend of mine? He had wealth more than Tata, Birla, Jindal and Mahindra all put together. His daily receipts of cash across his various offices in the World were more than the annual income disclosed in India’s recent income tax amnesty scheme  – embarrassing Hon Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. He was always looked with great respect by all the ruling Governments and those interested to rule. A man so rich, influential but at the same time so simple and discrete. Such people of invisible power could only be found on 101st floor.

He had just returned from Delhi after a secret and a high level meeting with the PM.  The meeting was presided by the PM himself with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Union Environment Minister, Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, as well as a Minister of State for Finance and Mr. Anil Madhav Dave, Minister of Environment & Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC). The topic was remediation and rehabilitation of contaminated lands in India. Mr. Piyush Goel, Union Minister of Power had also joined the meeting – a bit late though.

Mr. Prakash Javdekar, then Minister of State for MoEFCC had informed the Lok Sabha (India’s Parliament) in 2015 on the status and action on remediation of contaminated sites.  PM wanted to take stock of the situation and accelerate the program prior to the national elections.


Javdekar had said

“MoEFCC operates two programmes for rehabilitation of abandoned contaminated sites and dumps cross the country.  One is a project for rehabilitation of 12 contaminated areas in eight States having multiple sites is being implemented through Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) at the cost of Rs 8050 million. Forty per cent of the funding will come from National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) while the remaining 60 per cent are contributions are the contributions State Governments. The eight States where the project is being implemented are Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The project activities include assessment of contamination, preparation & implementation of remediation plans for each of the selected sites, and monitoring of 50 pre-selected contaminated sites. In the implementation phase, consultants have been selected for preparation of detailed project reports for remediation of 8 sites. The initial grant of Rs.100 million to CPCB is being put to use in preparation of Detailed Project Reports.

In addition, an Externally Aided Project from World Bank for Capacity Building for Industrial Pollution Management (CBIPM) is being implemented with three objectives namely, preparation of National Plan for Rehabilitation of Polluted Sites (NPRPS) which includes institutional and methodological framework for rehabilitation of highly polluted abandoned sites; capacity building of State Government agencies for remediation: and actual remediation of 4 pilot sites in States of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana with 15% cost sharing by State Governments. The project outlay is Rs.3390.26 million”


“CPCB is today a practically dead organization The CBIMB has always been a slow-starter – fraught with challenges on procurement” Professor said this while lighting his Cigar. Most of the “champions” at the MoEFCC, CPCB and key States have either retired or transferred. NPRPS is not yet out and has been more of an academic exercise with clips from Google searches. The website of CBIMP as last updated is of 2011. I don’t know why these “impotent” projects are even getting mentioned today. It’s simply a hogwash”

I thought the Professor was right. I was involved in the early formulation of CBIMP in 2002 with World Bank and had repeated warned the World Bank and MoEF that this program was simply not going to “sell”. There was no national policy on remediation and rehabilitation – There was absence of of risk based standards and technical guidelines and no thought given on the estimation of costs of “legacy pollution” and the potential involvement of the private sector. Although the importance of the above enabling framework was recognized to an extent in the Project Appraisal Document (PAD) of the World Bank, the general apathy at the MoEFCC (something not surprising), poor acceptance and understanding at the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) of this project with maze of procurement and bureaucratic hurdles – brought the project to significant delays.

The Professor continued. “And I really don’t see why the Government is proposing to use the National Clean Energy Fund. So illogical isn’t it?”

My billionaire friend agreed.


Through Finance Bill 2010-11 a corpus called National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) was created out of cess on coal produced / imported (“polluter pays” principle) for the purposes of financing and promoting clean energy initiatives, funding research in the area of clean energy or for any other purpose relating thereto. An Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) chaired by Finance Secretary approves the projects/schemes eligible for financing under the NCEF. These projects include innovative schemes like Green Energy Corridor for boosting up the transmission sector, Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM)’s installation of solar photovoltaic (SPV) lights and small capacity lights, installation of SPV water pumping systems, SPV Power Plants, Grid Connected Rooftop SPV Power Plants, pilot project to assess wind power potential etc.


In 2012, NCEF was permitted to be used to finance TSDFs for hazardous waste (not for remediation as such). Minister Goyal wasn’t quite happy with such arbitrary allocations and “fitment” of TSDF and remediation component under clean energy.

Apparently, Union Minister of Commerce Mrs Sitharaman offered that she could insert in Schedule 7 of the CSR directive under the Company’s Act that industry’s expenditure on remediation of contaminated lands will be permitted as CSR spent. “I will discuss this possibility with IICA” she said

“Well, this is certainly not acceptable” I said “On one side you allow industries to recklessly pollute our lands and then allow the expenditure for clean up or remediate as a CSR”

My billionaire friend was listening. He nodded to our observations.

After the briefing and discussions, PM had requested him to put some 100 billion Rs. as a “private sector involvement”, set an example to industries and help the Government. No CSR and no NCEF – he said emphatically. And we are not interested in the World Bank unlike Jayaram Ramesh. Bank just wants to “experiment” their half-baked ideas from Harvard and MIT on countries like us.

He came directly to the point.

I asked my billionaire friend about his response. He had said “Sir, billions here and there is no problem for me. I will send my accountant to Mr. Jaitleys office and you may advise how you want to have this money to be delivered. From Zurich or via Mauritius or in the form of carefully packed gold bars that I stock in Dubai or in form of real estate on the Pacific Islands that you can sell and give you cash from drug mafia. Sorry, I have stopped using the Nationalized Banks for fund transfer after the tightening of screws done by Raghuram, earlier RBI Governor.  My only request will be not use my money for UP and Punjab elections. In return, please allow me to “sell” the decontaminated lands for brownfield development in the real estate market. This is how I will recover my “investments”

Mr. Jaitley was not however very comfortable with my billionaire friends options. “I will have to look into very carefully” he said. But the real scale of the problem of contaminated lands was worrying him. The actual number of contaminated lands will be far more than the one officially reported he guessed – like cases reported on dengue fever in Delhi. The 2013 report of Blacksmith Institute had already shown presence of 41 prominent contaminated sites in India

He then whispered to the PM. “The National Green Tribunal (NGT) is  already breathing down our neck slapping orders for “compensation”. How the NGT arrives at these costs is debatable, but the news headlines are screaming on this issue already.

The problem is serious PM said but Arun – you seem to be too much perturbed

“Well Sir, I was about to show trend of India’s GDP over past 5 years and next 5 years of likely projection. I now realize that I will have to lower the figure by at least 1.5% to reflect the costs to be incurred to remediate and rehabilitate the contaminated lands. That will the India’s true GDP”

Jaitley is right – Professor said while getting up and extinguishing his cigar. It could even be 2% if you looked at economic impacts (health and natural resources) of hundreds of city landfills or rather dumps that are leaching and emitting pollutants every day.

“So is the Government going to borrow money from you” I asked a stupid question in closing that my billionaire friend did not answer – as if he never heard. Have some corn flakes imported for you from Australia he said instead.


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Nostradamus, me and Pennylane Coffee Place in New York

nostradamus

Nostradamus

I was attending the Sustainable Development Summit that was held in New York just last week between September 25-27. My Professor friend had organized my participation as his assistant. He was very busy in helping the Indian delegation and lobbying with other Member States regarding Terrorism (Well, how can you separate sustainability today from terrorism? Our Honorable Union Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj knows)

Of course Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was the principal agenda, but the other agenda included climate change. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had convened a special “High-Level Event on Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change” on 21 September as a follow up to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The high-level event of the Summit provided an opportunity to countries to publicly commit to joining the Paris Agreement before the end of 2016. On the advice of the Professor, the Indian Government ratified and made commitment. The hope was, we as Nations United, accelerate the growth of clean energy and help achieve the SDGs to strengthen international stability and security, save lives and improve human well-being.

The event also included “Third International Conference on Financing for Development”. UN Secretary General appealed for more involvement of the private sector in the “business of sustainability” to help achieve the Future We Want.

When the Summit ended on September 27, I suggested Professor that we go out to some nice restaurant for dinner. I was sick of eating at the 10th floor food café every day, standing in long queues for the food that was “diplomatic” (i.e. without spice) and subsidized in both price as well as quality.

Professor was however desperate for a good coffee. “Let us do a coffee at Pennylane first” He said.

Pennylane is perhaps one of the best coffee shops in New York just a couple of minutes walk from the UN building. The Coffee beans they use are stumptown and of very high quality. Apart from the great variety of coffees, the interesting part of Pennylane is the chalk board outside – where people write “quotes of the day”.  The quote of that day was “It’s the Future We Don’t Want. Have a Great Coffee Today!” I thought the writer must be one of the frustrated delegates attending the UN Summit.

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The Chalk Board outside Pennylane Coffee 

We asked for the latte or “flat white” where milk is perfectly steamed to the right temperature (with latte art to top it off). We ordered bitter cookies to go along. We couldn’t get chairs near the window (to get some sunlight) and so started looking for a table under the large lamp shades. All tables were occupied but we found one table where one Old Man was sitting with a long beard and a cap.

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The Latte 

 

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Table under Large Lamp Shades

“Can we join?” Professor asked. The Old Man nodded.

Professor lighted his cigar. He started updating me on the global politics of sustainability. The hidden agenda and of course India’s interest. “I really don’t know what’s in our future” he said at the end rather solemnly. “All talk my friend”. I could sense a deep frustration in Professors voice.

“But I am taking up the task of modelling of the world and India with sophisticated tools and databases now – Modelling could be an answer to shape our future” He said this with some conviction.

The Professor went to the loo.

The Old Man on the table was listening.

I looked at him again.  Soon I realized that the Old Man looked like Michel de Nostredame (aka Nostradamus) who was a 16th-century French philosopher. Nostredame had predicted many tragic events throughout history, including the Assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, the rise of Hitler, the defeat of Napoleon, and also the unfortunate 9/11 terrorist acts. Nostradamus studied astrology and various “occult” sciences and used those to predict the future.  We don’t have many seers these days who can really predict the future.

In his writings, Nostradamus mentioned unusual weather patterns and natural cataclysms / disasters that will intensify further than they already have. He described the events as where ‘Water shall be seen to rise as the ground is seen to fall underneath’. Today, we are already seeing snow in the springtime in many parts of the world. Year 2015 also saw the most frigid temperatures ever.

I couldn’t resist asking a stupid question “Are you by any chance Mr. Nostradamus?”

The Old Man smiled “Yes, that’s me!”

“Oh” I did not know what to say to something so impossible. I must be hallucinating.

“Well, I come here occasionally – I love the coffee here and the conversations on the Tables – especially the UN type” The Old Man said.

We started talking. I asked him about his predictions for 2016.

He said that many explosions will occur around the Middle East area and planes will be falling from the sky. The Middle East has already seen drastic changes and civil unrest for the past 4 years. The Arab region has intensified civil wars in over 10 countries, including in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Somalia, Libya and Syria. Petrol and Oil in the Gulf States in the Middle East will be on fire.

Before coming to Pennylane Coffee, Nostradamus had visited Baba Vanga. Baba was from Bulgaria, blind and died in 1996. Baba had predicted that global warming would become a mainstream issue back in the 1950’s. She had said “cold regions will become warm … and volcanoes will awaken”.

“All this will come true” said the Old Man (or Nostradamus?) while getting up. “So, there is no point my friend to discuss the SDGs. The future is different and rather bleak and something you cannot control”. I could see the confidence on his face when he made these statements. “He could well be right and so Baba Vanga” I said to myself.

The Old Man walked outside quietly.

Professor just returned from the loo and before I could tell him about my encounter with Nostradamus, he opened his laptop. “Oh, I must show you something that will simply amaze you. I have with me now a World Model that provides a scientific window to our future. This model has been developed by the Millennium Institute. Its earlier model called Threshold 21 is now Integrated Sustainable Development Goals. I have downloaded Version 1.2 of this model called as Integrated Sustainable Development Goals planning model (iSDG). The iSDG is a comprehensive simulation tool that generates country-specific development scenarios to show the implications of policy on a country’s progress towards the SDGs. It covers all the 17 Goals, and facilitates a better understanding of the interconnections of the goals and targets, in order to develop synergetic strategies to achieve them. The model’s structure can also be expanded to support the analysis of other country-specific development issues beyond the SDGs” He sounded so excited.

But after talking to Nostradamus, I was not impressed and in fact was quite skeptical and even dismal.

“I have another proposition Professor” I said this while sipping the last bit of Latte.

“Why not we establish a school of Environmental Astrology in India. That may be better than the iSDG you have. This school may provide more reliable predictions on future we dont want”

Professor stared at me. He saw me serious. He ordered for another round of Latte.

 


For more information and to download the beta version of iSDG, visit www.isdgs.org. Have fun


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