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Archiving my work

I have decided to take a break from this site.

This site shall be an archive of my work.

Thanks for visiting.

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Bandra Fort now bears a cemented look

The 400-year old Castella de Aguada, popularly known as the Bandra Fort at Bandra Bandstand now wears a cemented look. The fort, a Grade I heritage structure was deteriorating. Hence, the state archaeological department undertook the task of restoring the ruins of the fort. However, during the process of restoration, they have completely cemented the walls.

“There were many small cavities in the walls which was destroying the fort. Since the fort is located near the sea, we had no choice but to use cement to strengthen the walls,” says an official from the state archaeological department on the condition of anonymity.

The state archaeological department and the Archaeological Survey of India follow the method of retaining the original look and feel of any heritage site while restoring it. Cement is usually avoided as in the past, cement was never used.

The fort was originally built by using rubble stone masonry and lime-mortar plastering which gave the fort is unique look. “We could not use lime as it is not available easily in such a large quantity. Moreover we had to carry out the restoration work immediately to save the fort. We plan to give the final touches using lime plastering when the stock arrives,” adds the official.

The restoration work began late last year with a budget of Rs. 60 lakh. The restoration work is supposed to be completed before the monsoons begin this year.

“It is good that the state archaeological department noticed the deterioration, took interest in the matter and started the restoration work. But being a Grade I heritage structure, they should have retained the original look and the character of the fort rather than using cement,” says P. Kapur, trustee of the Bandra Bandstand Residents’ Trust, the trust that manages the entire area starting from the Bandra Bandstand promenade till the Amphitheatre and the fort. “If not the entire fort, at least the original look of the entrance to the fort should have been retained,” he adds.

In the 16th century, the fort was used an important watchtower between the Salcette Island annexed by the Portuguese and the islands held by the British. Over the years, due to lack of maintenance and continuous deterioration, the fort saw a dwindling number of visitors and thus became the haven to couples and drug addicts.

“The fort was dilapidated and on the verge of collapsing. As a resident of the Bandra Bandstand area, I come here often. The fort does not look the same anymore. It does not look like a Grade I heritage structure; instead it looks just like a new construction,” says Nandini Joshi, a resident of the area.

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Mercedes McLaren Comes to Mumbai

The famous Formula One racing car McLaren Mercedes visited Mumbai this month. The car was exhibited at Hakone Racing Circuit at Powai, Phoenix Mills at Lower Parel, Oberoi Mall at Goregaon and Nirmal Lifestyles at Mulund.

The car is an exact replica of the car driven by Formula One ace driver Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren Mercedes team is one of the most successful teams in Formula One. They have won over 150 races. 11 Drivers’ Championships and 8 Constructors’ Championships.

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Will I ever get a credit card?

Journalists, lawyers, actors, politicians and the police are always envied for the kind of connections they have. This class of professionals have their way of getting things done in their favour. But these privileges do not coming knocking on their doors everytime. There are times when doors are shut only because of whom they are and the work they do.

Journalists, lawyers, actors and politicians and the police are black listed professions for banks when it comes to issuing credit cards and loans. Even if you want a credit card, it is a luxury. However, some of them have their way out.

I have applied several times for a credit card and have been refused every single time for the reason “profession not desirable” or “not credit worth”. What do banks mean by this? Am i engaged in some black business or something? I am a tax paying citizen of India. If I come within the tax bracket how can they classify me as not credit worthy?

After speaking to a number of banker friends, I got to know the real picture. Banks choose to harass the common man. In case journalists, lawyers, politicians, actors and the police default on payments and the bank uses harsh methods of recovery, the journalist will expose them in the media, lawyers will file a suit against them for harassment, the police, actors and politicians will use their connection against the bank.

Issuance of credit cards is the at the sole discretion of the bank but does that give them the right to deny credit to these professionals?

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Shoe Problem?

Being big made or small made is a problem in India especially when it comes to buying shoes. If you don’t get your correct size, you are left unsatisfied. There are very few shops that have the option of selling custom-made shoes.

I have a problem buying shoes of my size. I am very short and my height is 149 cm. My shoe size is 4. The normal shoe size of ladies is 5-10. Whenever I got to buy shoes, the shopkeeper sends me to the kids section and I get shoes with bows and buckles. During Christmas, I can get a variety of shoes with Christmas Trees, Santa Clause, Elves, Mistletoes and what not. Being a woman and an impulsive shopper, I cannot indulge in impulse shoe shopping. I am forced to order shoes. The good part about ordering shoes is that I can play around with the design and increase or decrease the height of the heel.

Fazal Shaikh is a Maharashtra State level basketball player and stands feet 10 inches tall. “My shoe size is 12 and this size is available only in a few shops and most of the time I have to order my shoes.”

Sruthi Gotipatti feels that the attitude of the shopkeepers must change. “My shoe size in 10 and I find it rather annoying when shopkeepers tell me that my feet are abnormal. Moreover, the shoes of those sizes are too ‘aunty-like’. It is high time shops stock adequate shoes of plus or minus sizes,” states Sruthi Gotipatti.

When it comes to clothes, the number of tailors and plus sized clothes’ shops in the city are many. “The plus sized stores do not have my size. Hence, I get all my clothes stitched. There are only t-shirts of my size available at select outlets” adds Fazal Shaikh.

Shopkeepers feel that they lose out on revenue when they stock odd sizes, the investment and infrastructure costs are high but the sales are low. But there are some shops which cater to people who have big feet or small feet. “We provide the facility for ordering shoes from any of our designs at no extra cost. The shoes will be ready in a week”, says Vipul Chheda, owner of an Adidas showroom at Parel. “We take order of shoes but we charge about Rs. 50 – Rs. 75 more depending on the nature of modification. We can make minor adjustments provided the design is similar”, adds Iliyaz of Bombay Shoe Mart located at Crawford Market.

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Music therapy with a special touch

“Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable”. This line by Leonard Bernstein holds true for the children of Priyanj Special School located in Goregaon West. As you enter the school, you are greeted by the smiles of enthusiastic children singing, banging the desk and making noise. These children look any other children but in reality they are autistic.

Apart from their regular sessions of special education, art and craft training, speech and language therapy, occupational and sensory integration therapy, individual counselling, self-help training and computer education, music sessions has made a big difference to these children in improving their social skills.

Eight-year old Raveena Poojari can play on the keyboard just any song that she has heard on the television while Vedant Roy, also eight-years old, can play on the keyboard any tune that a person hums. For Deepayan Dasgupta, music has made him talk; his speech has improved through music. Prathamesh Naik, Deepanyan Dasgupta and Devansh Rathor, all of nine years can learn any song and immediately sing in tune. “Music has made these children more verbal and has improved their social skills. Earlier getting them to talk was very difficult but now they have started responding to people,” says Dr. Reesha Dhulap, the school principal. Saurabh Jadhav can barely speak but once the bongo is handed over to him, he gets engrossed with it. “The children here are immensely gifted. They have never attended any formal music class but they have the knack of playing music just by ear. I just teach them the notes and give them the pitch. Raveena has the ability to remember song lyrics and has even written them in her exam answer paper!” adds Dinesh Kumar, the music instructor.

The school that started in the year 2000 has recently formed their own band that performs at various places. The school band consists of singers Devansh Rathore, Deepanyan Dasgupta, Vedant Roy, Ritika Shetty and Prathamesh Naik accompanied by Raveena Poojari on the keyboard, Saurabh on the bongo and Ingrid Lobo on the tambourine. The children are now in the process of learning to play the guitar.

When asked about the difference in teaching music to autistic children Dinesh Kumar answers, “While teaching these children, I have to wait for them to respond. I had never heard about autism before and after getting involved in teaching these children, I have gained lots of patience and satisfaction.”

Though these children have their limitations, they have emerged victorious with their special gift of music.


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Today’s aeromodeller, tomorrow’s pilot

Take a trip to Mahalakshmi Race Course on a Sunday morning and you could witness an exciting sport practiced there – aeromodelling. When the horses are not in action, aeromodelling enthusiasts fly radio-controlled, scaled-down versions of airplanes and helicopters. Aeromodelling is the art of making miniature aircraft models that look and fly like real aircrafts. It is a combination of craft, a bit of engineering expertise, coupled with creative imagination.

Aeromodelling is highly developed in the United States of America. With the lack of open spaces here, the hobby is suppressed,” says Ashok Baijal, the Deputy General Manager of State Bank of India, who frequents the race course every Sunday. “The race course is the only open space in Mumbai where we can fly planes for free”, says S. K. Mishra of Indian Hobby Centre. The Mahalakshmi Race Course has started a Flying Club that provides third party insurance for an annual fee of Rs. 200.

Categories of aeromodels

Static aeromodels are replicas of airplanes that exhibit minute details of real airplanes. They are incapable of flight. These serve as learning tools in the world of aircrafts. Construction of these models demands a high level of engineering expertise, craft, carpentry and knowledge about the aircraft. Flying aeromodels are capable of actual flight. They need considerations of weight, balance and strength. Their main focus is on the aerodynamics than just external appearances. Balsa wood, polystyrene foam, bits of glass fibre, cloth and plywood is required for its construction. Some plastic moulded parts like the propeller and spinner cones may be incorporated. Glow fuel (70% methanol, 10% nitromethane and 20% castor oil) is used to fly these airplanes.

It is beneficial for beginners to use kits rather than trying to build models from random sheets of balsa wood. The hobby is prevalent in India since almost three decades. However, aeromodelling kits are being imported since the last seven years. In Mumbai, aeromodelling kits are available on retail only at India Hobby Centre. The kit includes a plan of the airplane, pre-cut strips of Balsa wood and a manual on how to get started.

“There is no joy in buying readymade airplanes. When you create your own airplane, there is immense satisfaction. You’re first crash motivates you to rework on your airplane,” says Ashok Baijal. Mehernosh started aeromodelling with a zero budget. “I went to the race course and watched others flying. There is a skill to operate the remote control and I learnt it by watching others and flying their planes,” he says. His interest in aeromodelling initiated him to study aeronautical engineering. TYBSc student, Ralph Cornelius worked at India Hobby Centre and earned the body of an airplane which he assembled. His passion has motivated him to invest in a chopper.

Benefits of Aeromodelling

Aeromodelling is very useful for defence purposes and disaster management. “Through these airplanes, manless flights are possible during wars. Also, by attaching a camera, one can survey a disaster prone area and capture images,” says Ashok Baijal. “The government can start by encouraging aeromodelling as a sport and then look into its commercial benefits,” he adds.


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Escort Services: A Mere Click Away

“Do you want to earn Rs. 20,000 – Rs. 50,000 in a day? For more details call us on XXXXX XXXXX” says the ad on the site. Sounds like an advertisement of a placement company. Doesn’t it? A further look into the site reveals – “I offer the ultimate girl friend experience escort service to males, females and shemales. We can lose all our inhibitions and explore our fantasies together (sic),” says a banner on the website of an escort service operating in India. While another says “My vital stats are 40D-30-39. I can give u the perfect girl friend experience of a lifetime, because I am hot and h**** (sic)”.

The Internet is an enormous marketplace to sell products and services including the services of women. We often blame social networking sites as a source for delinquencies. However, it is the easy and unrestricted access to the Internet that has exposed minds to enormous unsolicited content.

When the words “escort services” are typed in a search engine, or on the very popular Orkut for that matter, the results obtained are deplorable with sexually explicit pictures and brazen text. These sites contain contact numbers and e-mail addresses of the agents or coordinators which is easily available with a click of the mouse. The sites also invite applications from “young and sexy women” to apply for positions as escorts.

Orkut has been in the limelight after being linked to the murders of TCS employee Koushambi Layek by Manish Thakur and the latest Adnan Patrawala case. The site is not new to cases of cloning of profiles and misusing pictures and searching for escort services on Orkut, well, isn’t exactly rocket science.

While authorities are busy playing net nanny, Orkut remains easily accessible to a large section of society dominated by youngsters.

Following are the transcripts of a telephone call made to a Mr. Verma whose number was procured form one such site.

Anjali: Hello Mr. Verma I would like to book an escort for my boss
Verma: Your boss???? (laughs)
Anjali: Can you supply a girl aged around 18-25 at J. W. Marriot?
Verma: Yes I can. Shall I e-mail you some pictures? Ask your boss to select.
Anjali: What is the cost of a girl?
Verma: Rs. 25,000 for one session that it two hours. Room rent and gifts are separate. Virgin girl Rs. 40,000 and firangs Rs. 50,000
Anjali: Is there any discount?
Verma: This is not a khirana shop to ask for discount. When shall I confirm the booking?
Anjali: How can I make the payment?
Verma: Cash or blank cheque. I will write the name.
Anjali: Ok thank you. I will speak to my boss and call back later.

On calling up the number on the website, the agent divulged all possible information without any qualms or actually verifying who was on the other side of that call. Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 says that whoever publishes or transmits in the electronic form, any material which is lewd and lustful or appeals to that interest shall be liable to punishment. The punishment on first conviction is imprisonment which may extend to five years and fine which may extend to one lakh rupees. In the event of a second or subsequent conviction imprisonment may extend to ten years and fine may extend to two lakh rupees.

The Information Technology Act, 2000 was enacted to provide legal recognition of electronic communication in India. On questioning an official from the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell in Mumbai, the official (on the condition of anonymity) said, “We are aware of the existence of escort services. Adult prostitution is not illegal in India. Child prostitution and those who live off the income of prostitutes is illegal. We are arresting such people frequently. Even after the arrests, their aides continue to operate in full swing.”

In spite of the “arrests” made by the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell, the persons running these escort services are unperturbed by the laws and the enforcers of the law.

The official further said, “The internet is an international source. This business has a large network. These websites are hosted abroad and we do not have much control over such sites.” But Section 75 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 says that this Act applies to any offense or contravention committed outside India by any person if the act or conduct constituting is located in India.

To this the official added, “We have been blocking escort services websites but after some time, the agents unblock them or they operate under another domain name. We can put an end to this nonsense only with the co-operation of the people.”

Though the process of investigation was not divulged the official maintained that certain things could to be to prevent children from “bumping into these sites.”

  • Set up a password to prevent children from accessing the internet without adult supervision
  • Activate a web locking system in the computer that blocks access to these sites
  • Activate the adult content filter option especially in Peer2Peer file sharing software
  • Display warnings mentioning “adult content” where blocking is impossible
  • Check the internet history regularly to monitor the content viewed.

Some cybercafés in India have blocked such sites but most of them thrive by serving customers who need a daily dose of pornography. Parents are aware of the kind of content out on the Internet. “I know my children are vulnerable to viewing such content. Therefore, the computer is in my bedroom under lock and key. I have also set a password for the computer and my children can use the computer only under my supervision,” says Richa Mehta, mother of three school children.

“I trust my children though they are smarter than me when it comes to the computer and internet. I don’t know about the existence of blocking softwares,” says another parent Lily Fernandes.


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Railways out to track sportspersons


The Indian railway network is among the largest in the world. With more than 600 crore passengers travelling every year and almost 10,000 trains running daily, it offers a tremendous scope for making a lucrative career on the tracks. The Indian Railways provides varied opportunities for a secure and satisfying career. There is a Rail Sports Promotion Board within the network. There is a special quota for sportspersons and the Indian Railways recruits almost 1200 people from different sports backgrounds every year. Railway employees enjoy many privileges as well.

The job of a ticket collector is no mean task. “Whenever I look at Ticket Collector, I feel hat they are public servants and have no other source of income hence they wait to collect fines from people,” says Virgil Sequeira. However, in reality, the ticket collector has definitely achieved much more in life as compared to the common man.

Sportspersons are generally offered jobs in Group C which consists of ticket collectors and commercial clerks. The Indian Railways is known to have produced many eminent sportspersons and has 103 Arjuna Awardees to its credit so far. Some of the sportsperson in the railways are

Faiyyaz Ahmed

This 25 year-old power lifter weighs only 67 kgs but he can carry weights of almost three times his own weight. He has won the Junior National Championship four times, the Junior Asia Championship once and the Junior World Championship for three consecutive years. He has 53 gold medals, 14 silver medals and seven bronze medals to his collection of medals and trophies.

Iqbal Maindargi

He started his career in Badminton at the age of 17 years playing for Kolhapur district. He has represented Central Railway, Indian Railways and Maharashtra State for more than 30 years. He represented Maharashtra in the year 1972-73 and won the Single’s Championship from 1973 – 1976. He participated in the Thomas Cup in 1975 in Pakistan and in 1976 in Jalandhar. In 1976, he won the award for the best badminton player in Maharashtra. He ranked No. 2 after Prakash Padukone from 1975 to 1977. “My most memorable moment was when I defeated Prakash Padukone in 1975 at Cricket Club on India at Mumbai,” says Iqbal who is one of the few players to defeat Padukone. Maindargi is currently the Chief Ticket Inspector and is coaching the Maharashtra Badminton Team.

Simon D’Souza

Simon D’Souza is a medium distance athlete and represented Indian Railways from 1977-1983. D’Souza is a bronze medallist in the 1500 metres race in the 1979 National Games held at Hyderabad. He completed his Diploma in Coaching from National Institute of Sports and coached the Indian Railways athletics team for six years. He also represented MaharashtraSt. Joseph High School, Juhu. state for 9 years in 800 metres and 1500 metres. “I am 54 years old now and I keep myself fit by jogging everyday at Juhu beach,” states Simon who is also currently coaching the students of St. Joseph’s High School, Juhu

Onkar Singh

This Divisional Chief Ticket Inspector had the privilege of sharing the hockey field with Ajit Pal, Ashok Kumar and others at the 1975 Hockey World Cup at Kuala Lumpur. “I was only 18 years old then and was the youngest player in the team,’ adds Singh. He started his career in International hockey in 1974 till 1983. He joined the railways after the World Cup and continued to play for the railways till he was 35 years old. His exposure in the field of sports had given him an edge over others at the time of recruiting. This 54 year-old has Mumbai, Pune, Solapur, Bhusaval and Nagpur under his jurisdiction and is unable to devote time to his first love – hockey.

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Theydo not come with guns, nor are there any midnight knocks. They come armed with smiles, lies and promises of course, money; robbing people, of what a thousand armed wo/men would fail to do.

India is considered to be the origin, transit and destination for human trafficking. Human trafficking is apparently the 3rd largest illegal trade in the world after drugs and arms. Trafficking is an unorganized sector in the market. Traffickers use coercion, deceit, fraud, debt bondage to force the victims in forced sex, domestic bondage, begging, organ donation, unsafe agricultural labour, sweat shop labour, construction or restaurant work and other forms of modern day slavery. Being away from home can be a reason for exploitation. The poor accept it because the rich want it. Traffickers take advantage of the shortage of women due to the skewed sex ratio.

These jobs involve long work hours and immense exploitation. It affects the freedom and dignity of women and girls. They are thus deprived of their fundamental human rights such as right to liberty and security; right to home and family; right to freedom from torture, violence. Cruelty; right to education and employment, right to health care and right to live with dignity and respect.

When the victims are displaced from their cultural background, they develop a sense of anonymity and moral deformity. When they are thrust into a different cultural ethos and when language becomes a barrier, they feel lonely and alienated. They feel different from others. “I he traffickers take undue advantage of their vulnerability. Their personal safety is in danger. This is because women and children are considered as submissive polite, obedient, unresisting and ones us ho can be controlled.

Girls are sometimes sold to Arabs as slaves. Some of them also end up being mistresses. They are sexually exploited as they have their firstsexual encounter at an early age. They arc highly susceptible to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). They cannot free themselves as they have no voice and nowhere to go.

When girls are sold to brothels, they are immediately forced into commercial sex work. The brothel environment is very oppressive. If they decline or refuse, they are subjected to extortion, physical beating or assault with hot iron rods, torture, gang rape, sexual assault isolation in dark rooms, injuries, starvation and the like. They are even forced to consume drugs and alcohol. They are subjected to sadistic inhumanity accompanied by sexual harassment. Trafficking is resulting in gradual and complete destruction of a woman’s identity and the right to live as free human beings. The victims are left with life-long effects of mental and physical trauma. They are not given any kind of protection or job security. When a trafficking racket is busted, and girls from other countries are rescued, they are deported immediately as they are considered to be a liability to the country. Thus, they do not even enjoy any legal protection. Traffickers know that a source of earning is their daily bread. It is more important than the daily injustice meted out to them. They are treated as objects, commodities and non­persons. They are left without rights, no legal protection, no bargaining power, no provision for leave and no time for leisure. Trafficking disempowers women and makes them vulnerable.

Trafficked victims are further traumatized by their experiences. They suffer from depression and have suicidal thoughts. The mental and emotional state of the survivors involves hostility, defenselessness, withdrawal, detachment and self-criticism. They are highly distracted and their span of attention decreases.

Poverty and malnutrition make them anaemic. When victims are trafficked for organ donations, their treatment is often left incomplete as are not provided sufficient post-operative care. In case of victims trafficked for commercial sex work, most of the clients do not adopt precautionary measures. They fail to use contraceptives, so there is high risk of multiple pregnancies and HIV/AIDS. They undergo forced abortions. This creates complications in conception and affects their reproductive health. They are denied access to information related to reproductive health and STDs.

Children are mostly trafficked as jockeys in Arab countries to participate in camel races. There they are subjected to high-risk physical injuries. They are also trafficked for organ donations and beggary. The latest trend in trafficking in children is for pornographic films. They are highly exposed to sexually explicit materials at a very early age, which is why they cannot understand their sexuality. Sometimes they are also exploited by paedophiles. In this globalised world, there is a demand for cheap goods and commodities. Child labour comes cheap and hence they are exploited with long working hours, insufficient pay and dental of basic education. In some red-light areas, the children of commercial sex workers see their mothers having their time with different men daily. Hence, they do not respect sex, as they cannot understand its beauty. Therefore, it becomes difficult for them to differentiate between love and lust. In this way, they become exploiters and can even turn into rapists.

The victims are the best witnesses to the crime committed on them. If they are tried in court, their cases are pending for many years. They have to relive the same trauma during every appearance in court, as they have to repeat their ordeal every time. Generally, the authorities consider the victims as criminals as the actual traffickers manage to escape and defend themselves.

Mostly, the trafficked victims go home only to deliver money. That is the only contact they have with their families. When the trafficked women are rescued, they are rehabilitated first. The remand homes are not permanent shelters but just rescue homes. There they meet people who have experienced the same ordeal. Thus, they are able to form support groups among themselves. However, this does not happen always. Most remand homes are not equipped with adequate facilities. Sometimes, the nature of the rehabilitation does not reduce their trauma. In most rehabilitation processes, the impact on the mind of the individual tends to be overlooked. Their personal tragedy is buried under innumerable `feel good’ activities like workshops, seminars, visitors, short-term financial aid or celebrations.

When the victims return home, they face new obstacles and insecurities. They face material deprivation, social stigma and rejection from their own families and communities. They are victims of a heartless society. Their families and communities blame them for their misfortune that led to them having such traumatic experiences. The victims are considered the vamp. The victims die many times before their real death. Women have to bear the responsibility of upholding their family honor through sexual purity and innocence. They face additional stress because they are labeled as immoral, characterless, outcaste and so on. The outside world sees only the trafficked victims and blames them. If they are trafficked at an early age, they do not have sufficient education to find alternate employment. Victims are declined marriage proposals because the whole issue of morality and virginity crops in. They are seen as commodities and not as human beings with dignity, rights and duties. They have to make a conscious effort to reestablish their lost identity. Therefore, most of them return to commercial sex work. The `growth’ and `promotion’ from victim to exploiter usually takes place due to lack of alternative livelihood options. It is not easy for the victims to undo the damage. If they have a distorted view of their experience, they will find it difficult to feel empowered.

The road to prevent trafficking is difficult but not impossible. The victims are exploited, not defeated. They are human persons just like any one of us. Help them to live with dignity and respect.


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