Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This can happen only in India: A Secretary over ruled PM Gujral

Nirendra Dev

This is a test case of combination of bizaire style of governance in India as also the much talked about muscle-flexing by bureaucracy.
A former Telecom Secretary Mr A V Gokak “over ruled” the then Prime Minister Mr I K Gujral in 1997 and referred the study on licensee fees to other fora instead of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)as directed by Gujral.
“This was a major lacuna… This should not have happened and was unexpected. Prime Minister is the highest authority and any order from him should have been implemented in letter and spirit,” the JPC chairman and senior Congress MP Mr P C Chako told reporters here today.
Briefing journalists about the 12th sitting of the all-party panel examining the high-profile 2G spectrum scam, Mr Chako said on November 1, 1997, Mr Gujral had directed that TRAI should study on various pros and cons about the fees “not recovered” from the licensees.
“Instead of giving the assignment to TRAI, the secretary telecom (Mr Gakok) felt the necessity to assign the task to Bureau of Industrial Costs and Pricing (BICP), which was also later outsourced to ICICI Bank,” Mr Chako said.
To a question, Mr Chako said even the then Telecom minister Mr Beni Prasad Verma, the present Steel minister, “was not consulted”.
To a question, Mr Chako said, the former secretary, who retired 12 years back, explained to the panel that he “felt the necessity to assign the task to BICP as he thought TRAI would take more time to make the study and submit its report”.
“This reply is not satisfactory to the JPC,” Mr Chako said adding Mr Gakok, who appeared before the panel for 2 and half hours, will again appear tomorrow. “Six more members of JPC are to question him”.
Mr Chako said that ironically the report from BICP and ICICI later came only 11 months after the assignment was given and incidentally after Mr Gakok had retired.
Mr Gakok’s stint as telecom secretary covers the duration between 1996 and 1998. Among other things, he was also questioned by the committee on how the DoPT has failed to collect “outstanding license fees” to the tune of Rs 3779.45 crore including the amount of Rs 685 crore plus Rs 50.76 crore and another amount of Rs 33 crore as were also reflected in the CAG report No. 6 of 1998.
“Mr Gakok’s explanation to the committee was that the industry was at the nascent stage and things were just settling down,” Mr Chako said.
He explained that one reason for failure to recover the dues was that most of the 34 licensees had failed to open “third party account” as was mandated as one of the pre-conditions. “In fact, the failure to open such an account meant the licenses should or could have been cancelled,” he said.
Mr Chako maintained that the JPC was “not at all satisfied” with the former secretary’s explanations.
Answering questions, Mr Chako threw broad hint that all former telecom ministers could be summoned before the JPC but indicated that Mr Beni Prasad Verma and Mr Buta Singh could be exempted as nothing much apparently happened during their tenure. Other names as former telecom ministers who could be summoned “only after concensus” include Ms Sushma Swaraj, Mr Jagmohan, Late Pramod Mahajan, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan and Mr Arun Shourie. “Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee held the portfolio for sometime, but no member has raised the demand of summoning any former prime minister,” he added.
With the appointment of three of its Congress members— Mr Kishore Chandra Deo, Ms Jayanthi Natarajan and Mr Paban Singh Ghatowar—as ministers, the Congress has fallen into minority in the JPC, sources say adding the vacant slot can be filled up only after a resolution of the both houses of Parliament.
BJP has already charged the Congress of delaying the process. Mr Chako today said the JPC would be able to finalize report only by the end of winter session and not by August end as was initially assigned.
Meanwhile, BJ mounted pressure on government today by demanding that Home Minister Chidambaram should be summoned by JPC.
“I have received a letter of request from Mr Sinha on that,” the JPC chairman Mr P C Chako confirmed but hastened to add that the matter was under his examination.
Mr Sinha, when contacted said Mr Chidambaram “should come before the JPC as a former finance minister”.
Asked whether in his letter to the JPC chairman, he has also referred to Mr A Raja’s submission in the court during last two hearings wherein he has named the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Chidambaram, the BJP leader said, “…. but why make a distinction on whether he (Chidambaram) should be questioned on what Raja has said in court or otherwise”.
Mr Chako later said Mr Sinha’s letter was under his consideration but in the same breath, he said, “former ministers and politicians can be summoned only in the last leg… after we finish up with former secretaries and AGs and others”.
The JPC chairman Mr Chako, however, said, the committee would like to question Mr Raja at the earliest as the members expected him to throw more lights into the matters. “We are not with any closed mind for summoning others,” Mr Chako added.
The battle of one-up-manship between Congress and BJP is really picking up in the case.
In May, earlier this year, Mr Sinha, who was heading the Group of Ministers on Telecom policy during NDA regime, volunteered to depose before JPC.
Apparently, BJP is opposed to Mr Chako’s “prematured and prejudicial media briefings”, sources said and a few BJP leaders are also toying with the idea of having parallel briefings. Even during the meeting in the past, opposition members maintained that Congress members in JPC were coming prepared and briefed by the government and akey senior minister. The Home Minister Mr Chidambaram has already demanded the resignation of BJP member Mr Yashwant Sinha from the JPC.

(ends)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Has Jairam been shown his place by PM?

Is vocal Jairam Ramesh forced to tone down his ‘aggressive’ stance on Land Bill?
The new Rural Development minister Mr Jairam Ramesh’s first solemn pledge of putting the draft Land Acquisition Amendment Bill within a week
of his taking over has failed. Does it imply, after the initial
aggressive posturing, the pro-active minister is slightly toning down
his positioning vis-à-vis the much talked about legislation?
“It is not due to babudom….,” the minister told reporters here and
maintained that the draft bill will be put on the ministry’s website
by next week. This is truly in contrast to his media interaction on July 13, when he said the draft will be ready "within a week".
He also remained half-hearted to a question when asked whether the new land bill will be introduced in parliament and passed by winter session, he merely said, "I will try".
The minister had also on July 13 virtually reversed government’s hitherto
positioning on the highly controversial bill when he had said that his
ministry will not have any confrontation with Sonia Gandhi-led NAC.
The basic difference between the NAC and the Rural Development
ministry on the bill was on the quantum of role the state
(administrative mechanism) is going to have. While NAC had suggested
for 100 per cent role for the state, key UPA ally like Trinamul
Congress has been advocating for zero per cent state role.
In a modest contradiction to his last week’s remarks, Mr Ramesh today
merely said, “NAC’s views on the bill is one of the views”. He also
sought to give importance to the stance of Trinamul when he said,
“there are also other views like TMC who say zero role”. “The debate
is not about 70:30 or 100: 0 or anything like that. The state has to
play a facilitatory role in all the land transactions for
developmental works. It should have two vital elements,
industrialization along with compensation for land owners and
livelihood of those affected,” Mr Ramesh clarified.
He also said Trinamul MP Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar met him today, but
maintained that they did not discuss the land issue.
To a question, he was aware of general perception that during the last
3-decades under Left, the rural development sector was neglected in
West Bengal and said he would visit the state soon. However, he said,
when the country’s ‘poverty-bowl’ is referred, the perception relates
to Bihar, MP, Odhisa, Chattisgarh, UP, Rajasthan and north east. He
said the chief malady in these states including Naxal-affected states
“is shashan ki kami (absence of civil governance)”. He said in order
to improve on that scale, his ministry will sign a MoU with the office
of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to allow comprehensive audit
of all its schemes.
Mr Ramesh, who held a meeting with CAG Mr Vinod Rai here today, said
the CAG had informed him that they were willing to appoint special
auditor generals for rural development and local government programmes
in eight states which get maximum funds from the rural development
ministry. “These will also include Congress-ruled Andhra, Maharashtra
and Rajasthan as we do not to do any politics on it,” he said. The
minister said he would be leaving on a two-day visit to Kanker and
Dhamtari, the Maoist-hit areas of Chhattisgarh, to review
implementation of rural development programmes.
It is for others to interpret now who has tamed Ramesh, either the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, as Ramesh does not enjoy good rapport with the
Prime Minister, or its the powerful 10 Janpath, who has asked him to go slow.

(ends)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tripura Red Fort -- Mission 2013 ?

The following piece appeared in The Statesman for the much popular
North-East Page, July 11, 2011.

'Eyes on Tripura Red Fort'
- nirendra dev

“THIS country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in,” runs a line in a booklet published by the Tripura Department of Welfare of Scheduled Tribes.
An ancient land, Tripura has ever been a melting pot of tribal and non-tribal culture producing an exotic synthesis. This however, is to be taken with a pinch of salt as the state is now a mini-Bengal, with Bengali spoken in every nook and corner and signboards in Bangla. In short, it is a state where natives have been outnumbered by the people from across the border, mostly Hindu Bengalis from Sylhet, Mymensing and Noakhali.
Even secretary to the Government of India’s rural development ministry, Mr BK Sinha, who flagged off the nationwide below poverty line socio-economic census from the Hezamara block near Agartala, on 29 June, 2011, addressed the gathering in Bangla, trying to give the occasion a local touch.
Kokborok, the language of native Tripuris, is hardly a match for Bangladeshi rhetoric. Pidgin Sylheti (or Bangal bhasa) is so deeply inherent in society that even election slogans are written in Sylheti like “Deikha Jao go Sonia, CPI(M)-er Duniya” (Come Sonia and see what the CPI-M has made out of Tripura). Post the Mamata Banerjee hurricane in West Bengal, where the Leftists have been shown the doors, the Congress in Tripura is also nurturing hopes to do some sort of a political miracle in the Assembly elections due in 2013. Now the state is firmly in the grip of the Leftists under the leadership of a low-profile chief minister Manik Sarkar, who is otherwise admired for his integrity and administrative acumen.
The Hezamara block we visited is probably a testimony to the chief minister’s administrative ability. Several locals, including security personnel, say a few years ago, organising such a function on a national scale was out of question. The block has been a hotbed of extremists where for long the Tripura National Volunteers led by Bijoy
Hrangkhawl, ruled the roost. After the latter surrendered in 1988, came another militant group All Tripura Tiger Force. The adjoining thick jungles and porous border along Bangladesh provided a good hunting ground for them.
In fact, Tripura now heaves a sigh of relief that insurgency is now on the wane and they praise Manik Sarkar for this. While the CPI-M has kept itself close to tribals by harping on demands like constitutional autonomy, it has been cautious also not to hurt Bengali sentiment. The Congress, on the other hand, is identified as a pro-Bengali and thus anti-tribal party. The Congress’ alliance with the TNV has also not helped change that perception. On 29 June, 2011, the Tripura Congress, under the leadership of Pradesh Congress chief Surajit Dutta organised a rally in Agartala. The turn-out was impressive given its dwindling organisational strength. This even surprised Leftist supporters. If the Congress wants to do well in 2013 elections it must get its act together. The Trinamul Congress has also made its presence felt in the state. So far, the party has ruled the possibility of any tie-up with the Congress, the feeling being that it will come to power on its own. It is too premature to say that Left are on the way out.
No other North-eastern state is in the vice-like grip of indiscriminate kidnapping syndrome. What irks the Intelligence establishment and the Union home ministry more is that Tripura has already emerged as a corridor for pushing arms into other states in the North-east. IB and RAW often submit identical reports of Tripura-based outfits ~ ATTF and NLFT ~ being engaged in procuring arms from Thailand and Singapore and depositing them at Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, the notorious illegal arms centre.
Tripura also has a history of politico-insurgent groups’ nexus. Many fear that they will be active as the elections approach.

Ends

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Didi's new Rail nominee heckled, Loyalty fetches rewards in TMC

It was almost a last minute decision by the maverick Ms Mamata Banerjee that ensured elevation of her long-time loyalist Mr Dinesh Trivedi to the cabinet rank to take over as the new Railway Minister leaving her another Man Friday Mr Mukul Roy practically sulking.
Immediately after West Bengal poll results, the Trinamul Congres chief
had named MoS Shipping, Mr Mukul Roy to be the railway minister. In
fact, Mr Roy was also given an additional charge in his capacity of
Minister of State only and the perception in political circle and the
media was that Mr Roy’s elevation as the in-charge of Railway
portfolio was a foregone conclusion. The cabinet responsibility of the
Rail ministry thus, albeit temporarily, fell into the hands of the
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
Mr Trivedi is a long-time associate of Ms Banerjee and has always
stuck to his leader especially post 2004 Lok Sabha polls and 2006 West
Bengal polls, when Ms Banerjee was almost reduced to a political
irrelevance. This was the period when Mr Trivdedi was the face of
Trinamul Congress before the media in New Delhi. He was also
accompanying her most of the time during Ms Banerjee’s long-drawn
turbulent battle on Nandigram and Singur – which ultimately changed
the political fortunes of Ms Banerjee and also her bitter rivals, the
Left.
However, Mr Mukul Roy’s over-staying in Kolkata even after the state
assembly polls and not being able to connect well with media as a
central minister holding such an important portfolio has ultimately
gone against him.
According to sources, apparently the Prime Minister himself sounded
displeasure the manner Mr Roy was attending to his assignment as “the
main MoS Railway”. “Reportedly many files were called to Kolkata and
every time these did not go well with the PMO,” sources said adding
even after Prime Minister sought to review important and big ticket developmental projects himself there was no change in the style of functioning.
The last nail in the coffin for Mr Roy was his flat refusal to visit
the accident site at Malwa station near Kanpur after Sunday’s mishap
with Howrah-New Delhi Kalka Mail. Worse was his television byte that
the accident site was about 1000 km away from Kolkata.
By the time, damage was done and the Trinamul leadership had
apparently made up its mind for nominating Mr Dinesh Trivedi for the
crucial post. Mr Roy only worsened his chances of retaining the
portfolio when in a rare gesture he defied the Prime Minister and did
not visit the accident site at Rangiya in Assam. Needless to add, Mr
Roy was already sulking by then.
“The fact that Mr Trivedi is articulate and can face the media well
too has gone in his favour… other than of course the party supremo’s
confidence,” said a Trinamul Congress.
Immediately after swearing in, the new Railway minister Mr Trivedi in
a major damage control exercise left for Kanpur to make an on-the-spot
visit of the accident site and also meet the hospitalized passengers
of the ill-fated Kalka Mail.
“I m not gong to home nor Rail Bhavan. At the directives of Mamata
Banerjee, I am going to Kanpur,” Mr Trivedi told reporters. He would
also visit the accident site in Assam at the earliest.
Taking Ms Banerjee’s name over six times in his short impromptu media
briefing, Mr Trivedi said he would be following the “footprints of
Mamata Banerjee” and would use her Vision 2020 as a guide book to
perform as the Railway Minister. “Like my leader had said railway
safety means zero tolerance,” he said. “My priority will also be to
complete all the projects announced by our party leader either in
Bengal or outside”.
However, Trivedi had to face the ire of anguished passengers of the Kalka Mail near Kanpur though the Railways later made light of the episode saying such things often happen in the heat of the moment.
The new Railway Minister faced protests from family members of the
passengers injured in the Kalka Mail accident and was heckled
as he visited a hospital at Fatehpur. The angry crowd also raised
slogans against police and railway officials.
They alleged non-cooperation by police and railway authorities and
also blamed police for taking away bodies without informing family
members of the victims.
Meanwhile, Railway officials said the new minister would formally join
the Rail Bhavan and take over his responsibilities only on July
14.
"As of now, I think he is still out of station," said an official
refusing to answer whether the new minister is also still camping in
Kolkata.
Loyalties count so much that even defiance against the prime minister was not given much credence. Mr Mukul Roy continues to enjoy the position of a 'faithful servant' of party supremo Ms Banerjee. In any other country, in any other situation, someone should have at least tendered apology to the Prime Minister -- how soever political light weight he might be!


(ends) --

Monday, July 4, 2011

All-party meet on Lokpal seals the fate of team Anna

It's a typical case of closing of a shop. "Dukan band ho chuki hae," as they put it.
Aftermath the all-party meet, should the government take advantage of the underlining message about supremacy of parliament as echoed by political class cutting across party lines and show the civil society members led by Anna Hazare their place?
“Unki dukan kal hi band hi gayi hae (The civil society Anna Hazare-led
group’s agitation spirit has almost waned out yesterday itself),”
remarked a senior political leader of a north-India based party
stressing that the rare unanimity shown by the political parties in
yesterday’s all-party meeting on Lokpal should serve as an ‘exemplary
guide’ in the future.
Leaders from Samajwadi Party, RJD, JD (U) and Shiramani Akali Dal
(SAD) and BJP among others underlined during the meeting more than
once that the government should not “repeat its past mistake” and
uphold the supremacy of the parliament. Referring to the setting up of
a joint drafting committee, the common refrain of the political
leaders cutting across party lines was, “This was an unprecedented
move”.
“I won’t call it a moral defeat for government or otherwise. Rather
the government should take advantage of yesterday’s meeting and show
the civil society their place,” another leader said.
Sources said during the meeting despite tense moments when the battery
of government representatives including the stalwarts like Mr Pranab
Mukherjee, Mr A K Antony, Ms Sonia Gandhi, Mr Kapil Sibal and Mr
Veerappa Moily were “rendered into silence”; light moments also
prevailed with opposition leaders taking pot shot at the government’s
decision to give “undue importance” to the Anna Hazare group.
Other than the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s opening remarks and
a brief argument between senior leaders from both sides, it was
basically a show of the opposition and those parties supporting the
government from outside.

“This is not the way to end an agitation,” SP leader Mr Mohan Singh
reportedly said at the meeting.
At one point of time, Mr Singh ridiculed the government move and
joked, “the manner in which you all gave importance to street
fighters. You should have also circulated a biodata of Anna Hazare for
our perusal”.
Mr Sitaram Yechury of CPI (M) almost echoed the similar sentiments
saying, “till now the government was dealing with civil society, it
appears today you are meeting uncivil group” – predictably throwing
the entire house into peals of laughter.
Sources said at the end of the meeting as almost entire political
class stressed on preserving the supremacy of the parliament, JD (U)
leader Mr Sharad Yadav termed the ‘day’ as a “victory of parliamentary
democracy”.
RJD chief Mr Lalu Prasad said while all MPs were elected by the
people, he also wanted to know how many people would elect Hazare. The
versatile orator’s remarks also drew much laughter when he disfavoured
including the Prime Minister under the ambit of the Lokpal. “Aaj
Manmohan Singh hae ….. Kal Advaniji ho sakte haen …. Kyon Advaniji,”
he reportedly asked even as at the same moment others remarked that
Laluji was intentionally avoiding his own name as he too once
considered himself in the race for the top post. The parties like
AIADMK, Samajwadi and Akali Dal also disfavoured including Prime
Minister and higher judiciary under Lokpal, but the CPI (M) said the
government should bring a strong legislation with PM also covered
under its jurisdiction.
Joseji
From Nirendra

Parties flay government for undermining the supremacy of parliament

statesman news service

NEW DELHI, JULY 3. - A large number of political parties including
from opposition camp and those supporting the UPA regime from
‘outside’ like the Samajwadi Party of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mr Lalu
Prasad-led RJD and AGP from Assam today blasted at the government for
“undermining” the supremacy of the parliament and said the all-party
meet on Lokpal was long overdue.
“We told them strongly that it is the job of the government to bring
any legislation before the parliament before sharing it with any
outside element (civil society),” SP general secretary and party MP Mr
Mohan Singh, who attended the meeting, later said here.
He said the government should bring an “sashakt effective” and strong Lokpal
Bill in the Parliament where the members can discuss in detail on its
structure and the ambit of the Lokpal and other issues.
“I was very firm that the government should not lower the dignity of the
Parlaiment as they did by setting up a joint drafting panel while
ignoring the opposition and even parties like us who are extending
outside support,” he said adding the
the government cannot bring a draft by talking to people “on the streets.”
Several other parties endorsed similar views. Ranbir Singh of INLD led
by Om Prakash Chautala said, “ We want an effective Lokpal Bill which
should cover the Prime Minister, judiciary and the conducts of MPs
within its jurisdiction”
RJD chief Mr Lalu Prasad also strongly stressed on the need to protect
the dignity of the parliament and said, “120 crore people elect us,
who elects them” referring to the importance given by the government
to the Anna Hazare-led group for drafting a bill.
Many members said such a move was “unprecedented”; whiole a few even
joked next time the government could enlist members from terror and
Naxal groups while framing legislations.
Mr Sharad Yadav, JD(U) leader and NDA convenor was more point blank in
stating that any discussion on the ‘Jan Lok Pal bill at this juncture
was futile”.
“We wanted this all-party meeting, it was over due. I am happy to
state that the whole opposition was united that the government should
first bring a ‘formal bill’ then only we will discuss on it. What is
the point of any draft at this point,” he said.
AGP member Mr Biren Baishya said in 1996 when the United Front took
over the common minimum programme had enshrined inclusion of Prime
Minister under the ambit of Lokpal and that should be honoured. He
also ridiculed the manner the Congress-led regime had undermined the
supremacy of the parliament. However, the ruling party members
including senior ministers strongly denied that the government had any
intention to undermine the supremacy of the parliament.
AIADMK member M Thambidurai toed his party boss Ms Jayalalitha’s line
and said the civil society members were harping on a wrong line that
the Prime Minister’s Office should be covered and said, Frivolous
complaints against the PM will derail the process.”
The Opposition was represented by BJP veteran L K Advani, Leaders of
Opposition Sushma Swaraj (Lok Sabha) and Arun Jaitley (Rajya Sabha),
NDA Convenor and JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, S S Dhindsa (SAD), Sitaram
Yechury (CPI-M), Gurudas Dasgupta and D Raja (both CPI), Lalu Prasad
(RJD) and V Maitreyan and M Thambidurai (both AIADMK) and Satish
Mishra (BSP) .

It goes without stating a large number of political parties including
from opposition camp and those supporting the UPA regime from
‘outside’ like the Samajwadi Party of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mr Lalu
Prasad-led RJD and AGP from Assam blasted the government for
“undermining” the supremacy of the parliament and said the all-party
meet on Lokpal was long overdue.
“We told them strongly that it is the job of the government to bring
any legislation before the parliament before sharing it with any
outside element (civil society),” SP general secretary and party MP Mr
Mohan Singh, who attended the meeting, later said here.
He said the government should bring an “sashakt effective” and strong Lokpal Bill in the Parliament where the members can discuss in detail on its structure and the ambit of the Lokpal and other issues.
“I was very firm that the government should not lower the dignity of the
Parlaiment as they did by setting up a joint drafting panel while
ignoring the opposition and even parties like us who are extending
outside support,” he said adding the the government cannot bring a draft by talking to people “on the streets.”
Several other parties endorsed similar views. Ranbir Singh of INLD led
by Om Prakash Chautala said, “ We want an effective Lokpal Bill which
should cover the Prime Minister, judiciary and the conducts of MPs
within its jurisdiction”
RJD chief Mr Lalu Prasad also strongly stressed on the need to protect
the dignity of the parliament and said, “120 crore people elect us,
who elects them” referring to the importance given by the government
to the Anna Hazare-led group for drafting a bill.
Many members said such a move was “unprecedented”; whole a few even
joked next time the government could enlist members from terror and
Naxal groups while framing legislations.
Mr Sharad Yadav, JD(U) leader and NDA convenor was more point blank in
stating that any discussion on the ‘Jan Lok Pal bill at this juncture
was futile”.
AGP member Mr Biren Baishya said in 1996 when the United Front took
over the common minimum programme had enshrined inclusion of Prime
Minister under the ambit of Lokpal and that should be honoured. He
also ridiculed the manner the Congress-led regime had undermined the
supremacy of the parliament. However, the ruling party members
including senior ministers strongly denied that the government had any
intention to undermine the supremacy of the parliament.
AIADMK member M Thambidurai toed his party boss Ms Jayalalitha’s line
and said the civil society members were harping on a wrong line that
the Prime Minister’s Office should be covered and said, Frivolous
complaints against the PM will derail the process.”
The Opposition was represented by BJP veteran L K Advani, Leaders of
Opposition Sushma Swaraj (Lok Sabha) and Arun Jaitley (Rajya Sabha),
NDA Convenor and JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, S S Dhindsa (SAD), Sitaram
Yechury (CPI-M), Gurudas Dasgupta and D Raja (both CPI), Lalu Prasad
(RJD) and V Maitreyan and M Thambidurai (both AIADMK) and Satish
Mishra (BSP) .

(ends)