Male escorts and whistles: IIT-Madras’s new safety plan.

What kind of measures would you recommend to make a place like this safe for women?

PT shared this.

‘IIT-Madras has created a new “safety plan” for female students which involves having male students who volunteer to escort them around the campus.
From the article:
“Male escorts for night strolls on campus and a whistle to hoot – that’s what women students of IIT-Madras can expect now.
IIT-M administrators, who have mapped ‘unsafe’ zones, have proposed that women should not move around after 11pm without escorts, who will mostly be male student volunteers.

What if the escort turns out to be a molester? Well, the student will have to carry a whistle which she has to blow in case of an emergency.”

If you’re a female student at an IIT-M hostel, your procedure for taking a walk outdoors would be as follows:
1. Go to the senior year student on your hostel flank.
2. State your purpose.
3. Have the senior call up the “volunteer”
4. Wait for the volunteer arrive.
5. Get your whistle, put it around your neck, and go for a walk, under the watchful eye of your “escort”.

It would be laughably stupid if it wasn’t so horribly regressive.

I can’t believe that one of India’s best tech schools could come up with nothing better than escorts and WHISTLES, for god’s sake. Even we lawyers do so much better than these so-called technocrats. 
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Reminds you of Gurgaon roads being reserved for men and rapists after 8 pm? [link]

I agree with Times view.

“All they are doing through these rules is attacking the symptom, not the cause. Beefing up on-campus security … having 24×7 helplines, swift punitive action against any male student harassing women on campus; these are where the focus should be. The aim must be to create an environment where women feel safe, not simply confine them to their hostels.”

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But who are these criminals who are harassing the women on the campus?

I googled and found this.

“Open Discussion With Director, Dean Student

An open discussion between the institute administration and the student body ….  address issues relating to hostel regulations and women’s security in campus… [Click to read more]

Security Concerns

… several incidents of attempted sexual harassment by men in motorcycles. The perpetrators have been found to be both from within and outside campus…

…The Director explained that the best measure against external security threats would be enlisting the services of a CISF force to guard the campus perimeter which, while effective, was rejected by administration due to the fact that their patrols are armed and are not answerable to anyone except their commandant. Also, the need for such measures was not felt since the threats were not that grave. While the administration takes regular measures to close breaches in the perimeter, they have been subject to failure. It was noted by the Director that residents outside the campus make mounds to climb over the walls and that police action in this regard had also proved ineffective. He also pointed out incidents where the infiltrating outsiders have been known to beat up security guards.

The following were the proposals discussed…

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  • Self-defence training for women: the Dean Students noted that it was met with a positive response.
  • Cameras installed across campus, cited to be 2000 in number
  • Providing whistles: Dean Students mentioned that the suggestion came from the girl students themselves.
  • Pepper sprays
  • Paid escorts: this was a completely voluntary proposal, and constituted assigning students only at request.
  • Declaration of Safety: Dean Students clarified that this was not a safety measure, and that it applied to hostels of both genders. The declaration states briefly that the signatory is aware of the risks faced by wandering in the night outside safe zones, and of the potential consequences of taking these risks.”
What do you think of these measures?
Would such measures  work to warn sexual offenders, and generally create a safer environment for women in any place (given similar circumstances)?
What kind of measures would you recommend to make a place like this safe for women (and everybody else) – a place where outsiders are known to beat security guards, where the residents outside the campus make mounds to climb over the wall?
Do you think that crime against women is a reflection of the general state of crime and safety in a place?
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86 thoughts on “Male escorts and whistles: IIT-Madras’s new safety plan.

  1. Why, all these can be prevented by locking girls up in their houses and providing higher education via Internet within the safety of their own homes. I wonder why no one ever thought of that. Or wait, maybe they did!

    Compulsory self-defense training for girls and lighting up all the dark areas in campus could help to a certain extent. If the security guards are being beaten up, appoint stronger guards and devise a fool-proof plan along with the police force.

    But the sad truth remains that these are all just band-aids, the real problem is the unreasonable hatred towards women who have the audacity to walk around inside the campus at night. What can possibly be the cure for this cancer?

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  2. It seems some women residents ‘submitted a written petition to the Dean Students for attention to this issue’.

    The above mentioned security measures seem to serve two convenient purposes:

    1. They give the impression that the administration is trying to do something.
    2. They discourage such inconvenient petitions in future.

    What kind of action do you think would have been taken, if the safety concerns of women were taken seriously?

    Another link, IIT-M may enforce more norms.
    http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/article3321572.ece

    I agree with Times view.
    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-19/edit-page/31362054_1_women-students-female-students-hostels

    “All they are doing through these rules is attacking the symptom, not the cause. Beefing up on-campus security … having 24×7 helplines, swift punitive action against any male student harassing women on campus; these are where the focus should be. The aim must be to create an environment where women feel safe, not simply confine them to their hostels.”

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  3. I remember when I was studying the university campus was one of the safest place to be in. We spent so many ungodly hours loitering around.. the thought of safety never ever came and I don’t mean just the male specie but so many girls were with us also.
    I think over time the mentality has changed, we humans have evolved into this sex hungry idiots.. no wonder the apes don’t want to evolve into humans any more…

    It is really sad that such a prestigious institute has such steps to take shows how the so called brilliant mind works..

    I don’t see any steps that can stop this madness other then mentality change..

    For a change I must say I don’t hear so many stories of molesting or rape here ..yea it happens here too but not at the alarming rate it is taking place in our nation.

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      • IHM no action will work as long as the mentality changes, we can put as many as we want ..

        I know it by experience.. the measures that are put just highlight a fact and actually put the people in the eyes of the predator cause even if someone was not looking their now they look.. if u know what i mean ..

        What i would do, bring back capital punishment , who so ever caught, hang them and that too within 10-14 days .. fast tract trial.. a trial takes a decade here hence no one is afraid, they know ifthey get caught , they will get bail and by the next hearing they can disappear , leave the country everything …

        Who so ever gets caught , hang them .. and beleive you me the rape incidents will suddenly go down..

        Whats a whistle going ot do tell me if the poor girl is blowing it and no one is bothered to look at what is going on, THats what happens …

        what is pepper spray going to do whe nshe does not know how to use it , or there are more then one predators

        what is Lights gonna do when it happens in broad daylight…

        (i m sure to get a million thumbs down here as usual) .. but that is a fact.. How many of us have stopped on hearing a shriek or call for help and went to investigate it … rather the majority people suddenly find a different route to take …

        I have seen this happen when I am the only one standing looking for help from fellow human beings and none of them have the guts to say a word and I get pulled up by the police for trying to help a person .. which in my eyes is what everyone shud do .. and worry about other things later ..
        thats what i am trained to do , but the matter of the fact is it does not work in our nation .. and I have learnt my lesson twice now in india , maybe next time i will think twice tooo ..

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        • “What i would do, bring back capital punishment , who so ever caught, hang them and that too within 10-14 days ”
          “Who so ever gets caught , hang them .. and believe you me the rape incidents will suddenly go down..”

          Wow! That is quite a solution! Hanging for harassment and that too within 10-14 days. And who gets to decide innocence or guilt? Our super efficient justice system, or are we to take the word of police officers, or the victim herself (and assume that she can never be wrong about identifying the culprit). What if a woman decides to get rid of an unpleasant boyfriend by filing a false accusation? (yes it does happen in the real world). He gets hanged in the next 10 days and if we find out the truth should we say “oops” and move on.
          Somehow I doubt if fantasy solutions will work in a world with complex problems.

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        • PK.. I said that many days for It shud not take that long to find out everything , if the people who are investigating do their work propelry and I said that many days to decide on a CASE… on a fast track mode

          Why does it take for a case to go on for years .. maybe i am asking for more but what stops a court to pick up a case and take it to its end, without delaying it for years …

          Who so ever gets caught, and is found to be GUILTY.. should be hanged.. The days i mentioned are for a court to decide a judge to give judgement…
          the world is only complex in india…

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        • Bikram, I capital punishment should be reserved for only the most heinous crimes. Just as society has made it a crime to take human life, society must not take human life easily either but if at all, reserve this punishment for only the most serious cases.

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  4. I’ve just read the part about IIT-M. The first thought that struck me was that its a very Taliban type safety measure where you need a man (boy?) to safeguard you outside the confines of 4 walls. Can you imagine a girl going up to a ‘volunteer’ and saying “i want to take a walk, will you come with me?”. Tell me that doesnt open up a whole host of harassment opportunities.
    now off to read the rest.

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  5. Even if the proposal sounds laughable, the intent is not. Atleast the administration is taking measures to ensure the safety of it’s students.
    I don’t quite like the idea of male escorts though. Why depend on someone else for your protection, when all you need is a pepper spray and some smart manouveres to defend yourself?

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  6. When I was studying in a US university, I was once standing outside the department building and having a loud argument with one of my fellow classmates (male) about some project we were working on. The campus security came by and asked us if everything was OK, made sure we were OK and left the scene. No judgements, no “what is a girl doing…..” talks. This is what makes a place feel safer.

    For an Indian campus, I would suggest:

    1. Self defense training for women
    2. Campus security who do not act like keepers of morality
    3. Students being allowed access to all parts of the campus at all times in the day (safety in numbers)
    4. Educational sessions that stress on proper behavior between the sexes
    5. A MAJOR attitude overhaul for the rest of India. This is probably the only solution that will tackle the issue at its roots. Many of the Indian males think such behavior is OK and in some weird ways, even romantic!

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  7. I too had read about this and wondered if this was practical.
    Who exactly will be the escorts?
    I don’t suppose it is proposed to hire them to be on stand by for any girl who suddenly gets the urge to take a walk at night.
    I suppose they are students themselves.
    Don’t these male students have their own studies to attend to?
    Why would a boy agree to volunteer to escort a girl who wants to take a walk late at night unless he is closely related to her or knows her personally well.
    The idea seems impractical.
    Besides why would a girl agree to have an unknown boy walk along with her.
    Even the bliss of solitude is denied.
    Besides why should she be obliged to wait till her request to be escorted be processed, and and suitable escort mobilized in time?
    If the girl, even if escorted by a boy, is waylaid by a gang that outnumbers them, what can an escort do?. His not a Bollywood hero who can handle several thugs at a time
    Whistles and pepper sprays are likely to stay in the girls handbag. They, most likely will not even get the time to pull them out and use them. No molester gives notice at that hour in the night.These attacks happen suddenly and take you unawares.

    I would consider instead, choosing a few areas in the campus to be well lit and with some armed security staff posted at strategic corners or who patrol these areas if the distances are not too large. These areas could be equipped with video cameras and the girls advised to use these areas only at odd hours when they feel like taking a walk late at night. Some may wonder if such walks are necessary. I don’t. I know how refreshing and calming it is to enjoy the cool air for some time, in the silence of the night. I have experienced it and would not like this experience to be denied to girl students.

    More often girls may like to go out at night, not to take a walk but for wanting to visit the library. If the library is far from their hostel room, I would consider having a campus vehicle with a trusted driver to run shuttle services between the girls hostel and the library at hourly intervals.

    Let’s see what other readers feel about this.

    Regards
    GV

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    • That is exactly what I thought too- who protects against the escorts? When I was in DU police guard posts were provided around the women’s hostels– to make the women feel “safer”. What they really did was comment “why are you so late” or ask unnecessary almost harassing questions of any of our male classmates we happened to be walking back with.

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    • Good points, especially about the delights of solitude. Amazingly, this thought never occurred to our country’s brightest minds.

      I would say that the administration is obliged to ensure that it’s entire campus is safe. They need to brightly light up the entire campus and provide security patrols throughout. The students – both girls and guys – could also volunteer to patrol in groups at different parts of the day. They might consider hanging out, in groups initially, at the lesser used parts of campus to reclaim those areas from the goons, kind of like Taking Back The Night.

      Pepper spray etc. – agreed that most of us won’t use it, but I think we might be more inclined to if we had practice. Kind of like fire drills. In developed countries, one practices for these emergencies so that when they happen, you react instinctively. Same with pepper spray.

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  8. The proposal maybe laughable but the intent is not. But I do have a problem with the male escort proposal. I mean, why depend on someone else when all you need is a pepper spray and some smart maneuvers to defend yourself!

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      • Have you ever met college security guards? They aren’t professionals, just low wage labourers with a stick and a whistle. On rare occasions, they might carry a licensed gun that they aren’t supposed to use except for (legally justifiable) self-defence.

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    • I don’t think the intention is good either… I think they are hoping that most girls would take a ‘this isn’t worth the effort’ attitude and stay confined to hostel rooms on their own. Also, this will stump the girl-students from making anymore complaints…

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  9. I think crime against women IS a reflection a general state of crime AND a general culture of sexism. Both factors are at play here.

    The sexism has to be tackled on a cultural level – by imparting a more gender egalitarian value system where women aren’t judged for being human. This will involve a long drawn process of social awareness programs on many levels.

    The leaves us with the criminal aspect, which is more of a power play than anything. Most sexual offenders the opportunists – if they see a situation where they could molest/rape a woman and get away with it, they would make a move. The best way to tackle this is to raise the risk level for molesters, by arming women with self-defence skills and by instilling in them a ‘dare to fight’ attitude. Unfortunately, I don’t see this going mainstream anytime soon both because of the middle class bias against strong/athletic women and their general aversion to physically strenous activities such as martial arts training.

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    • Don’t you think they could also focus a little more on the boundary wall? They could put barbed wire and broken glass and keep the area well lit – I see it done in housing societies in Gurgaon. Bright light and generally activity (safety in numbers) seems to discourage criminals.

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      • Yes, they could, but I am not sure how much that would help. It is not particularly difficult to breach barbed wire fences and glass splinter boundary walls, if the only thing to stop proactive criminals are the walls. I agree that bright lights and general activity might help discourage criminals, depending on how the campus is oriented and how much activity is present after 10 pm, in the areas where women go for a stroll. The college could also try hiring and training professional security guards.

        And I still think women should be trained to fight and be armed with personal security objects like pepper spray. Once rapists and molesters get the idea that women are not as weak and defenceless as they thought, they would be less likely to be play the game of easy opportunity.

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      • And what about JNU? I stayed in Munirka, Delhi for a year and since my friends were JNU-ites I was a frequent visitor there… 24*7 security… girls wearing what they like, girls being drunk or stoned on the road without attracting wayward looks, nice friendly security guards… If its possible in JNU why not DU and IITs?

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        • One of my half sisters is at JNU. Munirka and the area around it might have been a safe place in the past, but it definitely isn’t now. It has become a slum of sorts and a very dangerous place to live in, particularly for women from NE India. JNU is still good though, I think the culture of liberalism in the JNU academia has a lot to contribute to it, as opposed to the right-wing conservative culture in a lot of engineering institutions.
           
          Hearing some of the stories here makes me wonder if something changed in India in the last 10 years or so; or if the security was much better in the past.

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  10. I do agree with the need for self-defense training. In fact I believe every girl needs to be skilled in some kind of self-defense tactic to give a nice kicking retort to anyone attacking her. I wish the schools and other educational institutions would include a martial-art or any self-defense training as a part of their after school activity which can be made mandatory for every student.

    I find the proposal of providing whistles and paid escorts utterly ridiculous! They seem so constricting! How about giving out a strong message of strict enforcement of law against those perpetrators as one of the ‘safety-plans’? How about focusing on planting some kind of fear law/punishment in the minds of the attackers instead of planting a fear of safety in the minds of women wishing to go out for as simple an activity as a night-stroll??🙄

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  11. What would I recommend? For girls to go for midnight walks unabashedly, every night – alone, in gangs, just building up numbers. I remember doing precisely that AND watching girls enjoy the night breeze on the lawns here & there five years back. That was one of my best memories of IITM – walking to and from lab at 3am with just the moon for company. This news makes me sad and angry beyond words.

    These ‘measures’ do nothing but clear up the area of students and give it over to the rowdy elements. Implement them, and the whole campus becomes unsafe – for anyone, at any time of the day. These ‘safety issues’ have a way of spreading their countless fingers rapidly, encroaching more & more space if they sense such fear and ‘caution’.

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  12. Hmmm…I would like to get one thing straight – women should NOT have to limit or modify their behaviours in order to be safe…Unfortunately, most women have resigned themselves to the fact that they are at risk of becoming victims of sexual violence and thus have developed methods to reduce that risk…

    Yes, changes in the physical design (lights, higher boundary walls etc,) of the campus may help reduce the risk of sexual harassment and violence but at the same time it is important to analyse the attitudes and behaviours that encourage such violence…

    Maybe, the female students should be asked what needs to be changed to make them safer since they know what can help keep them safe? I for one would never go for a stroll with an unknown male as my bodyguard…he administrators are assuming that male students will not rape – why?

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  13. I don’t event want to comment on the impracticality of this “safety measure”. Just some ideas form me
    – Raise the boundary wall height
    – Install a barbed wire or broken glass like you suggested IHM.
    – Let the whole campus be well lit, with no dark lanes, no dingy corners. Its Chennai, bright and sunny, use solar power, let the electrical or environmental departments take it up as an eco-project.
    – Employ well trained, fit, alert security staff, increase their numbers and rotate the people on duty. This is done in my parents’ apartment complex in Delhi. No security guard is on duty for more than 3-4 months and then the agency changes the person. They say its done mainly to avoid the possibility of him becoming very friendly with people intending to access the complex by unauthorized means and assist them somehow, or to know enough about all residents and use that info for some crime.
    – Very strict punishment to in campus violators and people who harass students and others on campus.
    – Involve the local police closely to keep tab on off campus violators.
    – Electronic access controls on entry points/gates of campus, buildings, hostels.
    – Training/awareness sessions by local police for students, staff and security personnel in the campus.

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  14. Sadly, things are worse in other places. IIT Roorkee doesn’t allow female student to be out of the hostel after 9 PM. Although the library is open till about midnight but female students can’t access it. Talk about unequal opportunities!
    If they go out to eat in the city, they have to somehow make it back to the hostel by 9 PM. What fun!

    We start our career accepting these inequalities so if further in our career we are discriminated against, we accept that as part of life as well. No wonder women’s salaries in India is one-third of men’s salaries and no one raises it as a concern (source: Save the Children State of the World’s Mothers report)…

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    • And it gets worse when you start working. If you are a single woman renting a place to stay, your landlord will start fixing your curfew. And will also determine who you can entertain as visitors. If you live in a PG it is worse. I sometimes think back to the kind of restrictions I said yes to when I started working and living on my own in Delhi- working was only marginally less restrictive than living in the hostel!

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  15. This is ridiculous and sounds like so 18th century. I have seen universities where freedom is not restricted like this. Somehow, Tamil Nadu universities seem to take the cake in restricting women ad such universities are encouraged by the parents so that students do not end up in the wrong path.

    1. Increase security guards on campus, patrolling on night. Proper trained ones not those old uncles who scold girls who are out at night.
    2. Increase CCTV cameras
    3. Increase gating and wall security. It is a campus.not a free for all.
    4. Increase awareness – woman out at night is not equal to asking to be molested. We are citizens and we have equal right to safety and freedom.
    5. Work on changing attitudes. Such stuff will become worse if we take such regressive measures and the next generation will be even worse. It is a college not some fish market with uneducated people
    6. Strict punishment without mercy to make people feel they CANNOT get away with this. This punishment will deter so many other crimes against women. They occur because we blame te victim and not punish the offender. We should stop making victims ashamed. Work on changing that attitude.
    7. Boost women’s confidence in themselves by changing their beliefs, self defense classes, pepper sprays.
    8. If there are witness to any such incident, the punishment for the molester must be swift and sure. We should not go about passing moral judgement on the victim, on her clothes or anything. A murder is a murder irrespective of who you kill.
    9. Stop unnecessary segregation of the sexes which leads to more repression and increase in such crimes.

    okay this sort of shit makes me very angry and I am glad I did not study in such stupid institutions.

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  16. Oh… Chennai, the cradle of conservatism, why am I not surprised?!

    The problem is not the funny/ridiculous safety measures. The problem is that men in Chennai behave like monkeys in much higher percentage than in other places.

    Conclusion: If you keep population sexually frustrated, and if you raise boys making them think that they can do anything without being punished, this is the result.

    While self-defence classes and CCTVs might help (they do, in many other places), the “male protection & the whistle” is the most ridiculous idea ever (considering that the incidents of assault happen from the inside of the campus as well).

    Students who took part in harrassment incidents should be automatically expelled from the higher education instituion and their details should be entered in a cross-campus registry of abusers. The gravity of punishment (not being able to ever complete studies within India) should work well.

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  17. For motorcycle crimes: All entry/exit points be manned by two-three police constables who note the reg. number of all outside vehicles gaining entry, this is done at checkpoints near women’s hostels in DU and in JNU. This is kind of visitor entry record, only those visiting a dept/person in campus is allowed entry, not as a thoroughfare. Being IIT campus, they can go high-tech and introduce electronic checkpoints like in some foreign campuses. You need a Uni. ID or a visitor electronic permit card to gain entry.
    CCTV installations and well lit roads are must if locals are jumping over walls. As said before, making walls unscalable is another excellent measure.
    Some sort of community engagement program with the neighbourhoods bordering the Institute might prove to be useful too. I would recommend training and employing local neighbourhood people as security guards. The more invested the residents right outside the campus feel with it, the more they will ensure the institute’s well being.

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  18. I was on that very same campus for four years, that was a decade and half back though. We would return from our labs back to the hostel after midnight many times, or go for a quick snack to the kiosk (in the boys hostel zone) if we got hungry in the middle of a late night mug-session or for a birthday treat right when the clock struck twelve.

    Things must have changed because we felt pretty safe, there were security folks around and we’d whizz off on our bicycles without much worry.

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    • Sorry got all nostalgic and gave little useful input to the main question.

      I think many of the suggestions above are very do-able – better lit roads, monitored access to the campus and a better technology than male escorts and whistles.

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  19. I see no reason in not adding trained profession security guards who answer only to the commandant. I’m sure a few army like fellas will put the fear into the molesters especially people who come in from outside.
    Light up the place as someone said solar project for the best and brightest minds to implement?
    Empower the women, take away the shame of being accosted, if we teach our girls that they are not at fault and to give back well and good to the molesters these incidents will start going down.
    In most colleges atleast in my time there was a sense of Unit, my institution, all the students belonged to 1 family – harassment was present but easily curtailed.
    I’m sure every student in IIT-M will stand up for their fellow human being – male or female.
    Most of all get rid of the blame game, the restrictions and let the kids enjoy and grow.
    I’m surprised at the directors quotes, especially someone so educated and in such a position is trying ot stunt the growth of a large percentage under the umbrella of protection. This is not rocket science, it is after all a contained campus with a set no of students and if we as a country cannot ensure even opportunities, growth and freedom for all our population what’s the point???
    This is doable i have no doubt about it, as long as there’s education and people open their mind and see past traditions, victim blaming, conservative thoughts, to the institution there should be no boy/girl students… just students.
    And what are these girls parents doing? Is it enough to educate, feed and cloth your child, what about giving her the tools to have a backbone?

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    • Parents must be relieved that finally the hostels might have a curfew and stop their precious marriageable age daughters from walking past the men’s hostel at night.

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      • LOL! Lemme go bounce this off my parents (who are here at the moment) and get back!

        But off topic, when I got through JEE, after a huge amount of slog no less, almost 99 out of the 100 folks who came to see us or bumped into us would tell my folks – ‘Are you really going to send your GIRL there? There are so many boys! How will you send this 16/17-year old alone? Imagine what a girl of this age can get into!’ etc.
        Sigh. Also out of the 20 women in our batch in BTech, most had no brothers. I know several women in the IIM (that I later went to) who had got through JEE but were not ‘sent away’, and did their BTechs in an engg college in their town/city.

        Not that it matters ultimately whether or not you went to an IIT, but you get the drift. So yes you do have a point, sadly.

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      • You know, you may be more on the point than many realised. I find that everytime a college in India introduces a curfew or a very restricting attendence rule, the parents couldn’t be happier. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to think this issues are ‘created’ just so that college authorities can justify clamping down on students’ freedom. Already, a lot of private colleges in Delhi started implementing very strict dress codes and internet accessible attendance reports (sent to parents) in their programs.

        This also reminds me of my attempt to install condom vending along with the soda vending machine during my time at Presidency. It was told in very clear terms that “this is not acceptable in the Indian culture” (=my culture is not Indian) and one person even told me that if I went ahead with my plans, I’d have to get funds for a ‘nursery’ as well. A lot of Indians, including the parental generation believe that condoms are just to protect people from AIDS and pregnancy is a actually a function of sexual frequency.

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  20. Wait a second! I grew up in IIT-M. I went about at all kinds of hours without escorts. Discovered roads that led into the heart of the jungle which my parents don’t even know about. Climbed trees, scraped knees all without the need for an escort. There are ALWAYS people taking walks on campus. What happened? Since when did this place become so unsafe you need escort to go on walks?

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    • Absolutely agree. We went to the lake, to the stadium, to SAC, OAT, everywhere, never stopping to think if it was dark or not. If anything the number of buildings is much higher now, larger areas are inhabited. So the ‘dicey’ areas should technically go down.

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      • Okay, you and I probably went to two different campuses then! While I was there, the place was littered with construction workers (hence the higher number of buildings) who’d feel you up or flash you at any chance they got. We still felt safe, largely, and went wherever we felt like….including, as you said, on late night walks into the heart of the jungle (my abs. fave part of those 4 years). But that was because we didn’t mind being groped or flashed once in a while in return for that freedom.

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        • Maybe all you alums should write a letter to the Director with some proper suggestions and pointing out how valuable that freedom was to your education.

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        • WildChild, we used to park till really late on Gajendra Circle too. Later I heard it was fenced to make sure that did not happen. So yes it is possible we went to different campuses!
          We even had an ‘Industrial Tour’ – yes, guys and girls were ‘allowed’ to go on it together. 3 weeks on trains criss-crossing the country!

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  21. I think people may over-look simple measures in bringing security for everyone – not just women.

    1. The entrances to the campus should be manned by security 24/7 and anyone without a valid ID card or with invitation cannot get in.

    2. CCTV in operation around the campus is essential, this pretty much picks up many incidents that potentially can be stopped before they are committed.

    3. Those male escorts need to be heavily vetted for security – and as such all records should be available for the campus and security.

    4. Pepper spray and attack alarms should be handed out compulsory for everyone.

    5. Report any suspicious activity around the campus.

    Like

  22. Rapist must be hanged on the day of sentencing.

    except that Girl need to supported by girl first. If molester cant group. why cant girls?? as far as mentality that its not my fire why should I get involved wont go. nothing will change.

    Especially in India.

    Like

  23. having escorts is the lamest solution I have heard! (well, one of the lamest!). What will increase the safety of women in particular and all the citizens in general will be 3 things:
    1) Realizing who the culprit is and making life more difficult for him/her- publishing their photo in the newspaper, increasing the punishment, and in general making sure people get the message who the culprit is. In this case, the girls from IIT-M campus are made to bear the brunt of reduced freedom in campus. Are they the culprits? Why should they be subjected to in-equal opportunities?
    2) Making sure the citizens in general take precaution-like carrying pepper spray, a sharp object, have good presence of mind to act in the situation, not be afraid to report the crime if anything happens (and to pursue the matter till the end so that the culprit gets punished)
    3) The Government’s role- by this I mean, the police, the law and enforcement officials, the college administration responsible for safety of student-They must take care to create a safe environment for all citizens. Creating a safe zone does not mean locking up women and enforcing restrictions on them. They must do their part in increasing security, training the security officials, installing cameras, monitoring the campus, acting quickly and sensibly when some does report a crime (instead of making life miserable for the victim) .
    When all these 3 things are collectively taken care of, will it help in reducing the crime. I agree that the root cause of crime lies in the mentality, but by doing the things mentioned above we are in some way changing the mentality too.

    Like

    • I also want to add that a escort is fine, if inspite of all the security the college feels that the area is unsafe. In which case, escort may be used by either girl or guy students. And in that case, escort should be someone from the security. (I wonder if a non-qualified male co-student escort will be able to do anything if there is an attack) In my grad school in US, there was a lot of security in our campus and inspite of this we all were given an option to call the campus security to drop us home at late hours. Many times me and my friends (both guys and girls) used to use the escort service. And all of this really made us feel safe and secure. Not to mention we used to roam around in the campus past midnight, without any issues.

      Like

      • In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with an escort service. It depends ultimately (like everything in India) on how it is implemented and who the escorts are. My grad school in the US also offered the option of a late-night escort to walk you back to the dorm room, or apartment if it was within a certain radius from campus. The escorts were fellow students who were paid for the late night shift (part of the whole work-study system in the US). Nothing condescending or patriarchal about this, it was just an acknowledgement that the campus was in one of the nation’s largest metros, with all sorts of permutations and combinations of people, times, and opportunities. The escort service didn’t mean that the campus police were decommissioned, this was just an additional layer. Neither were we asked to stay indoors as women, just to exercise common sense.

        Like

  24. I’m not surprised. At all! You haven’t seen segregation if you haven’t been to IITM.

    The guys hostels are all close together. The girls hostel is at least a km away from that zone, if not more. This is also where I mention that almost EVERY friend I had on campus had been molested at least once by one of the “SECURITY GUARDS” themselves. This is exactly the kind of behavior I expect from the institute. A friend and I used to go to the on-campus gym. We were usually the only two girls there, and we had no problem with that. One day, a PROFESSOR who was also using the gym went and spoke to the guy in charge about having separate hours for girls only, to ensure their safety. Those hours were 5 – 6 AM. Guess what? We never went there again.

    Like

    • Oh, I forgot – a (female) professor once complained about a guy who’d routinely flash her on her morning runs and she was asked what she was wearing.

      Also, you were requested to sign into the register lying at the security desk in the hostel lobby if you entered the hostel after midnight. One fine day, the security guards just randomly decided, with no instruction from anyone else on campus, that they were going to keep track and send letters to the parents of the highest offenders. (Basically saying that your daughter has bad character etc.)

      It was ridiculous. We’d all just walk in without signing and the guy would come running after us and we’d give him an earful. He knew some of our names so he’d go enter them himself!

      (Off topic, I know. But tells you about the general atittude.)

      Like

  25. While doing M.S. at my US university, I often returned late (12 am, 1 am), and called the campus police escort (a policeman with a gun in his car) to drop me off to my car. While I was OK walking around the campus late night/early morning, it was another thing to wander around large, not well-lit parking lots, often a mile or so away from my lab. Also the univ. was surrounded by a “rough” neighborhood (i.e.; high incidence of crime). The police escort was available regardless of gender, and lots of guy classmates used it too. I was glad to have an armed officer drop me off to my car.
    I do think the escort is a good idea, but it should be provided to both genders, and provided by a law enforcement agency.

    Like

    • Also will mention here that the officer was sometimes female, ie; a policewoman. Police escorts were available after 9 pm I think, and were available to employees/students. I’ve never heard of sexual molestation on campus, but did hear of muggings, so policing was primarily anti-crime. IIT situation is a little different since they are explicitly trying to protect women from sexual molestation, which needs a mentality change, yes of course, but also stricter policing by law-enforcement agencies on campus to dissuade criminals.

      Like

  26. I hate the idea of having to ‘state your purpose’. Seems so horribly retrograde. How and why should it be relevant to anybody what a grown adult’s ‘purpose’ for going somewhere is? Honestly, security of any form should be available to everyone, irrespective of gender, age or their, um, ‘purpose’. If one is feeling unsafe, male, female, whatever, one should be able to call someone for security without needing to give them their entire biodata.

    In some colleges in India, I’ve heard of young men and women (who are still called ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ by college management as though they are little children) not being allowed to mingle or socialise – I remember watching something on Times Now last year sometime about a student who was harrassed by college management for just interacting with somone of the opposite sex (BTW, this ‘interaction’ was simply saying Happy Birthday and shaking hands).

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  27. I remember reading this story and thinking to myself, what a pathetic solution to a serious problem. Who would have thought that the administration of a top tech school would be this regressive when it comes to making the school a safe place for women students. IIT-M has two things going for it in its fight against crime against women, information (technology) and money , marrying those two creatively can result in a much safer environment for all its students IMO.

    The only measure that would actually work among the proposed ones is the self defense training for women because it helps build self confidence and buys time to save one self from an attack. Having pepper spray or stun guns which deliver a powerful electric shock that stuns or knocks out the attacker for a few minutes is a good idea too. And most importantly learn to use these the right way.

    The idea of male escorts is laughable. I agree, how are we to know if the volunteer is doing this volunteering out of the goodness of his heart or just to get close to women.

    When we stop laughing and actually think about it, idea of a male escort for women on campus comes across as impractical and if I may say the brainchild of stupid. Why does a woman student have to depend on a male student or otherwise to go get a sandwich or to visit the library. I’m sure IIT charges the same fees from both men and women, then why restrict women from benefiting or enjoying the full range of facilities the school offers, whether it be the canteen or the library. And who is to say that a woman going out with a man will not be harassed.

    Now comes the problem of security.

    How hard is it to build walls that are 14 or 16 ft high and then top them off with barbed wire or broken glass. I haven’t lived in Chennai for almost a decade now and don’t know how high the actual walls are but they aren’t high enough if people can scale them easily.

    Also since this is a TECH school, how about installing motion sensors along the perimeters so that breaches can be detected.Making sure all entrances and exits had a checkpoint with a camera that takes a picture of the license plates, which can help in identification of the offenders. Installing solar lights around the campus as one commentator said is a great idea. It is a well known fact the well lit areas tend to deter criminals. Another good idea would be to set up call boxes that connect to a helpline on campus or to the nearest police station would be nice.

    While the idea of security guards on foot for the entire campus may not be possible, how about having increased security for places regularly frequented by students by guards who are well trained, fit and equipped for the job at hand and have patrol cars make rounds for places that are less likely to be frequented by students all the time.

    The institute should also make it known in no uncertain terms that it will not tolerate any criminal behavior including sexual harassment of women students and staff, encourage students to report attacks and institute rewards for information about culprits.

    About the commentator who mentioned incidents of daily laborers flashing women on campus, this too can be taken care off if the administration made it clear to the company it was hiring to do construction work, that such behavior will not be tolerated and anyone who flashes will not get to work on that site anymore.

    At most all the above changes will cost a few lakh rupees to implement and maintain which is not a lot of money for an institution like IIT, especially if its being spent to make the campus a safe and secure place for students.

    Like

  28. Finally de-lurking to comment today.🙂

    I can’t imagine why the dean thinks it’s not a “grave” issue.

    In my opinion, it’s a very grave issue indeed.

    And what can the volunteers really do? If these harassers have no qualms about beating up security guards, will they meekly bow to a single student?

    I’ve attended university in both the UK and Canada, and in both places, there were proper LEOs present 24×7 to provide campus security. Why does IIT-M have a problem with this? Why not ask for help from the agencies whose job it is to handle criminals?

    I wouldn’t expect the administration of a university to really have in-depth knowledge of effective campus security protocols, but I simply cannot understand why they are so bent on minimizing the issue this way.

    This is a job for the police, not a student executive council.

    Like

  29. I just graduated from my undergrad in the US, and we had measures for women’s safety. There were emergency posts every few metres where if you clicked the button, a loud siren would sound and the campus police would come to you. If we were working/studying/hanging out late on campus, we could call a number that sent us escorts on golf carts. These escorts were male students who were being paid to take us back to our dorms/cars. One of my friends did this job, and he had to go through a rigorous background check. These escorts worked alongside with the campus police – even the helpline number was routed from the campus police station. The boys didnt work all night, so after 3am if you felt unsafe and wanted someone to walk you back, the campus police themselves would take you.
    Of course, none of this was mandatory and it was our choice if we chose to call the helpline.
    We did have a sexual assault on campus at night when the girl was walking back alone, and right after that they hired a lot more students to patrol, as well as made sure more campus police worked at night and patrolled the area. They also made the place more well lit at night, and whenever you walked you could always see police in cars/bikes & segways around which was reassuring. It made me feel a lot more secure coming back after a late night of studying/group meetings.

    Like

  30. Why should a whistle be considered a ridiculous idea. I would rather suggest a panic transmitter, which buzzes an alarm in the security room with the location of the victim. Now thats a proposal for the technologists at IIT right there.

    Like

  31. Hi IHM, for some reason, wordpress does not let me enter a comment at your blog.. I’ve tried quite a few times and have given up now. But hey, today I read this post on my feeder about IITM and I had to comment. I live here in this campus. I thought I’ll send this comment to you::

    I live in the IITM campus.. and of all the places I’ve lived in, I’ve never felt more safe to wear what I’d like to, and take a bicycle ride in the middle of night alone through these lanes with banyan trees all around..I amuse myself thinking of its striking similarity of it to a horror movie set. I love the late evening jogs and the study sessions in central library till 12 at night, going for a midnight chai at the cafeteria. The place is full of life. Personally, I’m loving it.

    But we did hear of some unfortunate incidents that happened in the campus, not only against the women students, but also regular mugging incidents (gender neutral) inside the campus. And as some commentators assumed, the students are not the accused perpetrators here. The campus is of 620 acres, and of late a lot of anti social elements find their way in, thanks to lax security measures. So now we have some lanes marked as high risk areas. The security is good at the main entrance, where they take down registration numbers of every vehicle that enters the campus. The students and staff have vehicle tokens and its a pretty robust system that they have there. But, unfortunately, there’s barely any security at the other gates in the campus, and even not very late in the evening, you see some outsiders inside the campus. The fact that there’s no security inside the campus other than the main administrative buildings, encourages these people further. For instance, our department had people getting inside the building and using some of the facilities late in the night, which made them install a biometric entry system at the door. But I guess the place can do with better security measures, especially in the apparent risk prone areas and that’s what the students are demanding for now.

    And for the kind of preposterous rules which are being discussed in TOI and Hindu, well they are personal opinions of some (very patriarchal) people, and trust me they are a minority. There are just too many sensible people in this campus, among the teachers and the student community, to let them implement anything even remotely related to any of this. It’s been about 1 month since they made a storm out of this news in the media. I’ve seen the media guys gingerly waiting outside the campus gate for some ‘sound bytes’, and TOI has been running something or the other on this for weeks together, that it sounds too sleazy at times. But for most of the students here, it’s a non issue. Because we know that none of these (totally laughable) measures are going to be implemented here.

    Sorry for the long comment, but could not help it.

    Like

    • I think the thing that shocked many of us were that these laughable suggestions were being endorsed by an IIT. It’s kind of scary to think that an institution that nurtures the brightest minds in the country would come up with this.

      But if, as you say, it’s a minority and not the official line, that’s great news and a big relief. Trust TOI to excel in its coverage as usual. Though I guess the media hype serves the purpose of keeping up the pressure to implement solutions, which will hopefully be the non-rubbish ones.

      Like

  32. How difficult is it to put wires and appoint proper security guards? Its not as if its world war 2 and we have to secure the perimeter with rocket launchers and tanks. Why do we always tend to bend towards the cheapest solutions?

    Like

  33. Ah, it’s Chennai – the great city of culture! *snorts*

    I knew of one school teacher in Chennai who would spend all her time in class noticing which girl / boy looked at which other boy / girl, instead of teaching them. In many cases, it is the other male students who molest the female students and such so-called “teachers” only aggravate the issue.

    First, they should stop the colleges (and schools) in the city from strict segregation. They should encourage sex education (which is not taught in many places because teachers are “shy”). If the two sexes interact more freely and with less guilt and there are fewer people treating them as criminals for so interacting, students will stop feeling as if the only appropriate way to treat women is by putting them down.

    And they should really stop these silly boys vs. girls programmes on Tamil TV channels. Ever since I can remember, all college debate programmes segregate the two sexes, and make them fight over really horrific issues such as “who should make food?” and “who is cleverer?”. How is that even productive?!

    Chennai needs a radical cultural change to keep its women safe. People talk about Delhi and its unsafe roads, but honestly, the most unsafe I have ever felt is in Chennai (and this is in comparison to a night time ride in the general compartment of a Lucknow train!) Go figure! People known to you will come and threaten you with sexual abuse, and profess ever-dying love, and then stalk you all over the place. And the authorities don’t even reacts to such crap, until THEY are threatened. Where will it all end? In locking up the women, of course!

    Like

  34. Sorry state of affairs at IIT-M. As the victims are always women this is a gender issue rather than ordinary crime.
    One of the major reason for this must be the Patriarchal mentality of the authorities as well as students (both males and females). Some one mentioned here that all most all girls were victims of harassment at some tine and they were ready to accept it for the freedom…..! Such an attitude may be due to the belief that authorities may not act even if complained. But such attitudes also encourage the sexual assaulters. They will feel girls are ashamed to file complaint.
    Street sexual harassment has to fought with out any compromise. Students should ensure that authorities give highest priority to all such complaints and immediate and strong actions are taken. The beefing up of security including electric fences, cameras, female security guards are all useful.
    What about a gang of students hiding and catching the offenders and give them a thrashing before handing them over to Police? Student Organisations can easily organise that….

    Like

  35. I missed out to mention that “It’s not an official statement”. There was this discussion between the Dean of Students and the Council of Wardens, and others over e-mail, (classified information) which was leaked to the media.

    It all started with some bytes on the hostel day celebrations last month, that it’s the only day when inmates of women’s hostel can invite their male friends over. This was twisted and tweaked and dished out by the newspapers (Hindu and TOI) in the sleaziest way possible. And then, there were many responses on their websites about random people commenting on the immoral girls in IITM who want to bring in their guy friends into their rooms (bah!), n much other nonsense. Media loved the responses, and started sniffing around more, and then they got access to this e-mail thread.. and the rest is history.

    But I feel in some way this whole ruckus created by the media, would invariably act as a deterrent to these very patriarchal people who are a minority, but in positions of power (unfortunately). But the good news is decisions on implementing such rules are taken after a central body meeting comprising of elected student representatives and the Dean, Director, Council of Wardens and others. Even in this e-mail thread, there were strong responses by some professors against the Taliban-istic measures suggested.

    Like

    • @ Lives in the IITM campus: I am so glad to see the above comment. While reading through the comments, I had very similar points in mind.
      @ Everyone: A few background points about IITM (in addition to the 2 comments from ‘Lives in the IITM campus’-
      1. Media, especially ToI simply loves to hype things up about IITs. Example- Interviewee’s response ‘the counseling service functions in a passive/reactive mode’ gets printed as ‘the counseling service is not an active unit’. The whistle point must be a similar stupid twist as none of the current students seem to be complaining about such things.
      2. As mentioned above, the campus is an over 600 acre area. It is practically not possible to have cameras or security guards in every corner. Also, there is a lot of wildlife (monkeys, deers etc.) in IITM. Areas where these animals dwell cannot be lit brightly- it would hamper the animals’ routine etc., motion sensors would not serve a purpose and also, walls cannot be mounted with glass/barbed wire etc unless we wish to harm the animals (some areas are nevertheless barbed, but as someone else mentioned, it is not impossible to get through such things)
      3. Better trained/armed security guards for such a huge campus- who do we suggest will be paying for the whole system? IITs do not charge the way US universities or private Indian universities charge the students. Everyone already complains that it is taxpayers’ money that IITs use and IITians do not pay back enough to the nation etc. Are we all ready to shell out more? And no, we cannot suggest increase in fees- then IITs will also become a privy of the rich.
      4. Security at gates- The main gate is the only place from where vehicles can enter and there is a well maintained record. Only 2 wheelers can across the other gates, that too after noting down the details. As for recording movement of all people- Do note, there are over 10k residents- students, professors and others. And everyone has visitors. If the administration starts monitoring the movements, everyone will raise another issue- Don’t the young men and women deserve some privacy? Why should their movements be tracked?
      5. Library is just next to the current girls’ hostels. So is one of the canteens that stays open till 1 at night. Walking to academic zone or activity center etc. via main roads is completely safe. All these routes have proper lights, security and movement of people.

      Instead of trying to focus on one escort and whistle point (which anyways was not an official plan), why can’t we try to look at the complete picture? I am really glad to see that the administration is being so prompt in trying to provide a safe campus to its students- these problems are very recent. They are trying to figure out how to handle the issues, how to create infrastructure fast enough to provide good hostels to students while ensuring the construction workers do not become a threat for students. Instead of admin bashing (and hence, serving the purpose media had), let us suggest some practical solutions that can be implemented promptly. Why can’t we girls learn self-defense and carry and learn use of pepper spray? (We learn to run a drill and a lathe and such machines at IIT, so why not a pepper spray!)

      On one hand, we want freedom, we want to be treated as mature adults with no in-out time logs or restrictions and on the other hand, we do not want to take responsibility of our own safety. Aren’t we being hypocrites?

      Like

  36. my college (in usa) had something similar. They had a program for plp who wanted to join the army. so it was army training course. The guys in this course volunteered to be escorts. They used to sit at the library from 11pm – 6am and any student (male or female) could approach them and they would take us to wherever we need to go. We could also call a number and they would come to our hostel and take us to wherever we need to go, but it had to be certain distance from the campus. you can’t expect them to escort u to the other side of the town. it wasn’t required. you could still walk by yourself after 2am if you wanted to. But it was nice to have this system there in case we ever need it. I liked that it was for both men and women. Plp in india seem to think only women need protection but infact men also need it.

    Like

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