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Conceptualizing Right to Education for Differently Abled Persons in India: Journey from Disability to Ability, Myth or Reality

Paper Details 

Paper Code: AIJACLAV3RP0123

Category: Research Paper

Date of Submission for First Review: March 9, 2023

Date of Publication: December 29, 2023

Citation: Miss Junu Das & Mr. Zahid Hussain, “Conceptualizing Right to Education for Differently Abled Persons in India: Journey from Disability to Ability, Myth or Reality", 3, AIJACLA, 11, 11-21 (2023), <>

Author Details: Miss Junu Das, Teaching Associate &

Mr Jahid Hussain, Assistant Professor, Dhubri Law College, Dhubri, Assam


Access to Education is the Fundamental Right for every human being. It is the ultimate source to develop the mental ability, logical thinking, and intellectual growth which make a person enlightened individually and enables such persons to attain social development collectively. This right should be equally distributed by implementing the principles of equal opportunities and Intelligible Differentia. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 stipulated that “all men are born free and equal therefore it is the duty of the state to make every person better by imparting education equally without discriminating on the basis of race, caste, sex, etc.” However, occasionally it can be observed that abnormal differences appear in human beings either due to natural circumstances i.e. by birth, or due to accidents that make such human beings physically or mentally handicapped. Although such persons are to be equally benefitted with the right to education, they face an unequal environment in case of empowerment even after having good qualifications. Therefore, special treatment is required for empowering them.

But it is often observed that the legal framework has recognized the concept of social vulnerability but ignored the physical vulnerability of a person. After the enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, of 2016, reservations in seats for students with disabilities in Govt./the Govt. aided higher educational institutions increased from 3% to 5%. However, a study published by the Centre for Disability Studies and Health Laws (CDHSL) in 2017, revealed that a majority of National Law Universities (NLUs) disobey this rule. Only 12 of 22 NLUs were found to have executed the rule. Likewise, although there are many laws implemented by the Government of India for the benefit of the PWDs, such persons still seem to be incapable of achieving such benefits. This paper will thus attempt to analyse the challenges faced by the PWDs for achieving their right to education affecting their right to employment and will also try to ascertain the gap between policies and their implementations affecting such rights of the PWDs.


Differently-abled Persons; Indian Jurisprudence; Reservation; Right to Education


Education accessibility is the Fundamental Right for every human being.  It is the definitive kick-off to foster the mental culpableness, logical thinking, and intellectual progression which shaped a person into enlightenment and it is vitally necessary for understanding additional fundamental rights which are appropriable for human being. The quality of life can only be improved through education since it has the capacity to influence people to pick their carrier sagaciously. Thereby, it stimulates their ability to volunteer and participate in socio-political activities in the society. Education is the only remaining source by which every person including physically vulnerable persons can uplift themselves from poverty, by developing the skills and credentials that is required for quality paid work.

The sui generis protection is prerequisite for physically vulnerable persons from the society, due to their mental illness, physical disfigurement. They are not able to take care of themselves against the significant harm.[1]

Primitively, the cosmopolitan society contemplated such categories of people as a burden on the society, and one of the most respected ancient Greek Philosopher Plato persuaded for killing such categories of people immediately after their birth, since they were redundant burdens circumscribing the welfare of the society. Eventually, after the passage of time it can be witnessed that many such people conclusively established the special abilities that are possessed in so-called physically vulnerable people and also became an inspiration for many such peoples and also can accomplish milestones if given certain facilities with reasonable care. Some instances like Stephen Hawkins, Anny Marry Sewell, Helen Keller exhibited that Persons with Disabilities do possess the abilities to bring development and prosperity to a nation if adequate opportunities are given to them which should be free from negligence and ill-treatment from their normal counterparts in society. This proves that why the Right to Education, is essential for the PWDs.[2]

The concept of Right to Education in India was a part of Directive Principle of State Policy which is unenforceable in nature. Article 45 of the Constitution of India provided that it is the duty of the state to provide fee and compulsory education till the children attain the age of 14. However, the inadequateness of proper implementation of the right to education under Article 45 led to futile consequences. The Article 45 limited to written text only and therefore, the need was felt in 2002 thereby 86th amendment was made which brought the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002.[3]  Thereupon, the Right to Education become Fundamental Right under Article 21A of the Constitution of India.[4]

In 2009, the Government of India passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 or the R.T.E. Act. This Act reiterate the vision of the fundamental right to education into existence. However, there is no provision made under this Act for the person with disabilities.[5]

Execution of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, of 2016, accompanied to increase the rate from 3% to 5% by virtue of reservations in seats for students with disabilities in Government or the Government aided higher educational institutions. However, a study published by the Centre for Disability Studies and Health Laws (CDHSL) in 2017, revealed that a majority of National Law Universities (NLUs) overlooked this rule. Only 12 of 22 NLUs were found to have promulgated the rule.[6] One or more kind of physical disfigurement suffered by the 2.21% of the total population that is 2.68 crores from the total 121 crores population as per the data revealed by the updated disabled persons in India a Statistical Profile 2016 Report under the Census Report of 2011.

In India, out of the total disabled persons 45.48 % of the disabled persons are illiterates. Right to education is synchronize with the right to employment. According to the Report of Ministry of Statistic on Person with Disabilities around 64% of the disabled persons are unemployed in India.[7]

From the above facts, it can be depicted that the system of imparting education among the disabled person is anguished in India. The status of employment and education of the disabled person has been tried to strengthen by the various legislative frameworks such as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, of 2016. Nevertheless, practically the progression cannot be noticed between the objectives of the policies and the outcome achieved so far.

Notwithstanding that the Government has initiated enormous schemes for the protection and promotion of the disabled person, but in reality, it failed to protect them. The legislative framework has recognized the concept of social vulnerability but ignored the concept of physical vulnerability of a person. It can be observed that even after having good qualification they get rejected in job because of their condition. Despite several efforts and campaign made by the government, India is still lacking behind in providing proper facilities and infrastructure to the person with disability. More often these physically vulnerable group faced discrimination in the field of education, job etc.[8]

This paper will attempt to highlight a few of the major laws and policies adopted by India for making the Right to Education and Right to Employment available for PWDs and also try to ascertain the gap between the policies that are needed to be addressed for better implementation of such policies. This paper will thus attempt to analyse the challenges faced by the PWDs for achieving their rights in case of education that affecting their right to employment and will also try to mitigate those challenges that distressing such rights of the PWDs.

Evolution of Right to Education for Persons with Disabilities in India

Disability is not a proliferation disease which proportionately influence other people rather it is an impairment of the body which can hamper a person to function properly.

Erstwhile, the disability was premeditated as the penalty from God for the sin committed in the pre-birth by the person. Disability was also considered as the work of devil. Due to their disfiguration, people treated them with sympathy and miserably withhold to give any opportunity.

However, after observing the various Ancient scriptures of India, it can be found that the there was no differentiation between the able-bodied and physically handicapped persons. The concept of reasonable discrimination can be seen during that period since the works were divided as the ability of body of the persons.

 During ancient time of India, the person with disabilities were given education in the communities in the same way as other people. Education was given to disabled persons   in the mainstream schools in same manner as provided for the non-handicapped person in Gurukul. In that period not only, the person who were capable or fit physically can become king but also equal treatment in case of education, employment etc has provided by furnishing alternative method of education for those who are physically disabled. The training of public administration, management, decision making skill, delivering justice which are important aspect of education provided to every person equally irrespective of disability in that period.[9]

In the Epic of Mahabharata, it is mentioned that one of the major characters was visually impaired that is the character of Dhritarashtra, known as the blind king who was trained with all the qualities which was necessary to be king.[10]

 The Epic of Ramayana also portrayed the character of persons with disability. The character of Maid Manthara who was the maid of Queen Kaikeyi was suffered from orthopaedic disability because of which she could not stand straight but She possessed immense capacity to influence Queen Kaikeyi. She   was the only person who influenced and insisted Queen Kaikeyi to ask the King to appoint her son Bharat as the next King of Ayodhya instead of Rama.  In fact, the blame of sending Rama into 14 years of exile allocated to her.[11]

Even the character of Shakuni has also possess the capacity to influence who was expert of manipulating the game of dice was suffered with a bodily deformity. His character of instigation made the Kaurava to fought against their own brothers. Although these characters portrayed a negative role but it cannot be denied that during that period, such person achieved more rights of education than today’s period.[12]

The positive character can be found in the Indian Mythology that is another example of physically disabled person known as Asthavakra who was physically handicapped by birth. Asthavakra was mastered in Vedas and other holy scriptures at an early age. He was mocked by intellectuals in the court of King Janaka and had participated in a Shastraartha (philosophical debate), and at last, he defeated his mockers and earned a lot of praise from everyone.[13] Therefore, it can be observed that if the person is intellectually capable then physical disability was considered as an opportunity to promote or engage them in a specific position.

During the pre-independent period, there were few special schools which were specially made for the persons with disability. It was the Christian missionaries who created schools for the persons with disability as charitable undertakings in 1880s. The first school for the blind was established in 1887 and thereby many works for the persons with disability has been accomplished in the pre-independent period.[14]

In the year of 1944, the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) published a report called as the Sergeant Report where provisions for the education of the handicapped were to form an essential part of the national system of education was initiated. According to this report, handicapped children were to be sent to special schools only when the nature and extent of their defects made this necessary. After the independence, many laws were framed to improve the quality of education and the Kothari Commission (1964–66) was the first education commission of independent India. This commission was focused for providing essence to the education for disabled person. The commission said that the education for the persons with disability should be an inseparable part of the education system.  National Policy on Education, 1968 recommended free and compulsory education for all and it also proposed for expanding the educational opportunities with more advanced and better facilities for mentally and physically handicapped children.[15]

Integrated Education for Disabled Children,1974 was the scheme which was launched to implement the integrated education system for children with disabilities as provided by the Education policy of 1968. Under this scheme, efforts were to be made for bringing the children with lesser disabilities from special schools to common schools after such children become capable of adjusting with their normal counterparts.[16]

The Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 which is passed by the parliament for the development of the disabled person and the main purposes of this Act were to provide equal opportunities to disabled persons in every field, to promote them for full participation in social and political activities and to protect and promote the rights of such persons.

Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan, 2000 is another scheme launched by the Government of India in 2000. The main objective of this scheme was to spread elementary education to all places throughout India. Certain features of this scheme related to disabled person. The scheme aims to provide protection for the disabled students for detecting the disability at the earliest stage.[17]

The Right to education Act 2009 is the most important act among all these legislative. Under this Act, Section 3(2) provided elementary education for children with disabilities. After the amendment of 2012, the Act also made compulsory provision for the child who has multiple disabilities, has the right to choose home based education.[18]

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 amended the old Act that is the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 and the concept of disability has re-conceptualized by this Act and incorporated new structure of disabilities for making it even more dynamic. The categories of disabilities have been increased from 7 to 21. The Act also extended reservation provisions for disabled children in higher educational institutions.[19]

From the above facts it can be said that the government has come a long way to improve the conditions of the disabled persons. However, besides having such a long list of policies in India, there is still huge barrier, discrimination and lack of awareness against the disabled persons.

Statistical analyses of right to education and Right to Employment for the persons with disabilities

Population, India 2011 Disabled Persons, India 2011







121.08 Crore

62.32 Crore

58.76 Crore

2.68 Crore

1.50 Crore

1.18 Crore

A report published by World Health Organization revealed that in the developing countries around 400 million disabled persons are living worldwide and majority of them are poor and illiterate. In India as per the updated disabled persons in India a Statistical Profile 2016 Report under Census Report of 2011, the population of India was 121 crores and out of this population around 2.68 crores persons that is 2.21% of total population suffer from one or more kind of disability and from the total disabled people 1.5crores (56%) are males and 1.18 crores (44%) are females. The population of disabled is more found in rural areas compare to the urban areas which comprised 69% that is 1.86 crores of the total population of disabled persons and 0.81 crores lived in urban areas. As per the Census Report, 2011 revealed that   the highest number of disabled persons found in the state of Uttar Pradesh following by the State of Maharashtra. As regard to education of the disabled person, out of the total disabled persons 54.52% of the disabled persons are literates. In rural areas there are 49% is literate and in urban areas 67% of the total disabled person is literate. In urban areas, below graduate or matric level education of disabled person is 20% and only 10% are possess graduate or above education. However, in rural areas the situation is worse only 10% is below graduate level and 2% possess graduate level education. Among the State and UTs, the highest literacy rate among disabled persons is in Kerala (70.79%) followed by Goa (70.31%). The lowest literacy rate among disabled persons is in Arunachal Pradesh (38.75%) followed by Rajasthan (40.16%). At all India level, 8.53% of the disabled literates are having educational qualification of graduate and above. Among the State /UTs, the highest share of graduates in the disabled literate population is highest in Chandigarh (19.68%) followed by Delhi (17.43%) and the lowest share is reported from Lakshadweep (2%).[1]

According to the National Statistical Office (NSO) report 2018, 2.2% of the total population of the country was suffering from disability and unfortunately, 52.2% of the total disabled population over 7 years of age was found to be illiterate. Amongst those PWDs who were of above 15 years, only 19.3% was found to have been able to pursue the highest educational qualifications as secondary or higher degrees. Total number of PWDs from age group 3-35 years who ever attended ordinary school education amounted to only 62.9% and only 10.9% was able to get enrolled in pre-school intervention program.[2]

Since the right to education is corelated with right to employment therefore it is necessary to observe the rate of employment for the differently abled person. As per the census report of 2011, at all India level, 36.34% of the total disabled population is reported as workers. In the States of Nagaland and Sikkim, nearly 50% of the disabled population has been reported as workers.[3]

Figure 1.2: Percentage of employment and unemployment of PwDs

According to the Report of Ministry of Statistic on Person with Disabilities around 64% of the disabled persons are unemployed in India. Only 36% of the disabled persons are employed, out of which 23% of female are under the category of PWD are employed and 47% of males have job. As per the March, 2021 Statistical Profile under the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, Government of India revealed that from the total employment population of disabled person, 30.6% are agricultural labour, 23.3% are cultivators, 4.5% are involving in household industries and 41.6% are in fall in the other categories.[1]

 As per National Statistical Office (NSO) report 2018, the rate of labour force participation among person with disability from the age of 15 to above it was 23.8%[2]

As per the census report of 2011, the differently abled person in India is 26.8million which was increased from 21.9 million in 2001.[3]

As per the report, there were 14.9 million men with disabilities and women 11.9 million women in the country. Total number of disabled persons in rural areas is 18.0 million and just 8.1million enumerated in urban areas.[4]

The data under Census report of 2011, mentioned that there are 20% of disabled persons who have a problem in movement, 19% of PWDs have disability in hearing, 19% are disabled in seeing, 7% are suffering from the disability of speech.[5]

Figure 1.3: Types of Disability in India, according to the Census Report of 2011

The Road of Implementation of the Laws for the Development of the Persons with Disability

The Constitution is the paramount law of the land therefore all laws need to be under the scope of the constitution. Article 14 of the Constitution of India guarantees equality before law and equal protection of law for residence as well as for non-residence within the territory of India. Under this Article, all persons should be treated equally irrespective of their social vulnerability or physical vulnerability.[1]

Irrespective of the diverse culture, religion, language prevailing in India, Article 15 of the Constitution of India safeguards the citizens of India from discrimination on the ground of race, caste, sex or place of birth. Therefore, Article 15 also protects a person with disability from any discrimination face in matter of education or employment.[2]

The concept of education is involved with employment because education is the only aspect which creates opportunities for employment. An individual can achieve skills, knowledge or training only through education, the program of skill development, certificate of training is necessary to involve in any profession. Therefore, it is necessary to gain specialized knowledge, qualification, skill or training as the nature of work or job demand and people can achieved these skills only through education. Thus, there is an inextricable relationship between education and employment. The notion of equal opportunity is necessary to maintain in education as well as in employment. Article 16 of the constitution of India provides that there should be equal opportunities in employment without any discrimination.[3] However, since every human is not born equal therefore the diversity in the field of education and workplace is necessary to maintain. Inclusion of every people irrespective of race, caste, sex, residence and physical disability in every workplace enable the concept of opportunity in realty.

Article 16 emphasized on the protection of the rights of the physically handicapped person as it provides equal opportunity to every citizen in terms of employment or public appointment. Therefore, employment discrimination for the persons with disability is prohibited by Article 16.[4]

Every person including the persons with disability has the right to enjoy his life as their choice. Article 21 guarantees right of personal liberty for every citizens of India. Article 24 protects children from exploitation. It prohibits child labour including the child with disability. This kind of practices can take away the opportunity of normal happy life of a child. Therefore, it prohibits hazardous labour work of children below 14 years of age.[5]

Article 45 of the Constitution was an important provision for all children including disabled children, within the territory of India, since it made education compulsory for every child. 42 The same provision was made a Fundamental Right under 86th Amendment to the Constitution under Article 21 A. Now, education for all children including the disabled children is not only a right of them but also a duty of the State to provide for such arrangements so that the said right is exercised by all children without any discrimination. made a separate provision for especially promoting education amongst the PWD children whereby the age limit for which education was to be provided for free was 6-14 years for normal children while it was made 6-18 years for PWD children.[6]

In addition to these rights, a disabled person has a right to caste his vote like the non-disabled person after attainment of 18 years of age for the territorial constituency to which he resides.

The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 came into force on February 7, 1996 that confirms equal opportunity for the persons with disabilities. The Act protects right of the children who can access free education till the age of 18 years in integrated schools or special schools. The children who are disabled has the right to access free books, scholarship and other curriculum materials.[7]

The Act also promote employment of the persons with disability by providing 35 vacancies in government employment that shall be reserved and 1% each for the persons suffering from low vision, hearing impairment etc. The Act also promoted to implement suitable schemes for the training and welfare of the disabled persons. Along with the reservation of employment, the Governmental educational institutions shall also reserve at least 3% seats for disabled persons. However, many institutions do not follow the criteria provided by the Act. In fact, a study published by the Centre for Disability Studies and Health Laws (CDHSL) in 2017, revealed that a majority of National Law Universities (NLUs) overlooked this rule. Only 12 of 22 NLUs were found to have executed the rule. Although in 2007 India ratified and signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and subsequently the process to cop-up with the international law had increased in 2010 to complied with UNCRPD and thereby the Rights of PWD Act,2016 was enacted to empower the persons with disabilities. The Rights of PWD Act listed 21 conditions such as physical disability, intellectual disability, mental behaviour etc. to identify whether a person is disabled or not. The Act stated that every child from the age of 6 to 18 who has benchmark disability shall have the right to free education. Section 3(4) provided that no person shall be underprivileged of his or her personal liberty.[1]

The Act enumerated provisions of penalties if a person committed offence against persons with disabilities and also provided penalty of 10,000 fine or six months of imprisonment or both if any person violates the provision of the Act, rules regulation. The Act also focuses to construct special courts to handle the matters relating to violation of rights of PWDS. Section 3 (5) of the Act asserted that the government shall take necessary steps to ensure reasonable accommodation for PWDs. The Act also provided provisions for the protection and preserve the PWDs from cruelty and inhuman treatment. It is also the duty of the appropriate government to protect and safeguard the PWDs from any violation, exploitation or abuse.[2]

After analysing all the statistical data, it can be said that although there are various laws and policies but besides having exhaustive list of policies in India, the condition of the persons with disabilities is still mot improved. There are multiple reasons of not improving the circumstances of the PWDs; at first the concept of inclusive education for children with lesser disabilities cannot meet the needs of the child suffering from disability since they need special care and unique environment for their better growth and that only can be completed by introducing special schools for every child suffering from diversified categories of disabilities. The concept of common school under the system of inclusive education for the disabled persons can make them feel unequal since one cannot treat them as normal person and treating them as normal could mean treating unequal’s equally that is violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. A report published by UNESCO where it has revealed that the number of dropout students under CWD category from the schools are increased and they preferably choose online mode of education. lack of infrastructure is the main reason behind the unsuccessful and insufficiency of the State machineries for enforcing an inclusive educational model for children with disabilities. The report also uncovered the approach of the teacher and parents towards the disabled child and enrolling them into a regular school is one kind of discrimination which led to deprive their necessary rights. Educational mechanism is not up to the mark to develop the skills of the disabled persons. The reservation though provided but the institutions do not follow the due process of law in case of reservation of PWDs. The rights of PWD Act, 2016 allows reservation in higher education, yet the majority of the National Law Schools, who are considered as the top legal education thereby expected to follow the laws of the land more strictly in India, do not reveal their PWD vacancies while organizing CLAT exams. This revealed that how India’s top educational institutions abandoned the legal provisions despite the fact that the institutions might provide reservations to PWDs, but they are not willing to reveal the seats available against such reservations.[3]

Conclusion and Suggestion

It is evident from the preceding portions that despite having various legislations and policies, the PWDs are most overlooked and vulnerable category in the society. Nevertheless, there are sufficient laws which have been executed for the protection of the rights of the disabled persons, but due to the lack of awareness, the PWDs are not getting any benefit from the laws. Therefore, the society with the changing mindset can endeavour to rid of the stigmas linked with PWDs. Hence, it is necessary to create awareness programs so that the persons with disabilities possess the knowledge about the policies, schemes which are created for them. The awareness programme should also be conducted about the famous handicapped persons who have achieved success, there should be financial schemes that are required to empowered them to live with dignity.

[1] ‘Vulnerable Person Registry’ (CORNWALL POLICE) <https://www.>  accessed  21 May 2023

[2] Jayanata Boruah, ‘Right to Education for Persons with Disabilities in India: An Analysis of the Contemporary Legal Developments’ (SSRN) < sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3821873> accessed 24 May 2023

[3] J.N Pandey, Constitutional Law of India  (52nd edn, Central Law Agency 2015)

[4] Ibid. at 324-25

[5] Krishna Mohan P and Dr. M. Ravi Babu, ‘Promulgation of RTE-Act among Disabled Children’ The International Journal of Indian Psychology’ < > accessed 21 May 21 2023

[6] Shashank Pndey, ‘Only 12 of 22 NLUs fulfil requirement of 5% reservation for persons with Disabilities’ (Bar and Bench) <https://www-barandbech-com.cdn.ampproject. org/v/s/> accessed 21 May 2023

[7] Rucha Sharma, ‘only 36% of India’s 26 million persons with disabilities are employed’  (Forbe)  <https://www.> accessed 30 May 2023

[8] Id. at 2

[9] Martand Jha, ‘Indian Mythology has a Problem with Disability’ (WIRE) <> accessed 21 May 2023

[10] Ibid.

[11] Id. at 9

[12] Lalit Kumar, ‘Persons with Disabilty in Hindu Mythology’ (WECAPABLE) <> accessed 12 June 2023

[13] Id. at 9

[14] Shruti Taneja-Johansson, Nidhi Singal, ‘Education of Children with Disabilities in Rural India Government Schools: A Long Road to Inclusion’ International Journal of Disability, Development And Education <https://> accessed 23 May 2023

[15] Dr. Baiju. K. Nath, ‘Education of the Differently Abled- A Historical Overview’ (RESEARCHGATE) <https://www.> accessed 18 June 2023

[16] Lok Sabha Secretariat, Parliament Library and Reference, Research, Documentation and Information Service, Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities accessed 24 May 2023

[17] Id. at 15

[18] Id. at 8

[19] Ibid.

[1] Status of Disabled Persons in States / UTs <>pdf> accessed 27 June 2023

[2] Ibid.

[3] Id. at 7

[1] Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) in India- A Statistical Profile:2021, Government of India, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation National Statistical Office <> accessed 30 May 2023

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[1] Id. at 4

[2] Ibid.

[3] Id. at 29

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 Act of (1 of 1996)

[1] The Rights of PWD Act 2016

[2] Ibid.

[3] Id. at 18

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