Saturday, May 13, 2006

Why Are The Doctors Protesting, Alone ?


I don't get it. Until a few weeks ago, I thought the additional 27% reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBC) affected a whole lot more folks. Someone posted a comment cum link on my blog seeking support for an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) student initiated effort protesting against Arjun Singh's quota capers. Many Indian Institute of Management (IIM) students (or were they former) too made noises.

And yet, the only people protesting the hardest seem to be the doctors. Whose being on the streets unfortunately has the maximum impact on the people they are suppposed to serve, typically poor patients needing medical attention. Often urgent. And they look like the villians in the story.

That has not stopped them. Medical students from West Bengal and Bihar to Delhi and Mumbai, they are uniting to take on the government. Even Mangalore ! And the momentum only seems to be gaining. Students are talking of stepping up their efforts and creating a nationwide movement.


Amazing Rallying Powers


The medicos seem to be united regardless of their backgrounds. I quote one, from the DNA newspaper.."Dr Rudra who finished his internship at KEM medical college last year and belongs to the OBC caste said, “All students have realised that reservation is a game of votes. I belong to an OBC caste and I don’t need reservations. Reservations should be based on economic basis. My friends, who are also OBC’s, have also come out to protest.”

But the OBC problem affects a lot more people. The government wants to make the 27 per cent OBC reservation in 20 central universities, the IITs, IIMs and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The total quota will then stand at 49.5 per cent. And its the medicos who are hitting the streets all over the country.

As amazed as I am with the medical student fraternity's ability to organise and mass-rally, I continue to be a little puzzled as to the reason for the silence on the part of the other constituencies. The doctors and interns have more to lose than engineers and management graduates, unfortunately. Public ire will not turn against a IIM grad for hitting the streets. It will against doctors for staying away from work. The doctors are in a dangerous Catch 22 here.

Dr P Makes A Point

And as I wonder, I have one solid response from Dr P, a doctor based, lets say, in north India. He is pretty upset about the OBC issue. Though he has been corresponding with me on, other, professional issues. I put the same question to him and I reproduce his response which I received a few hours ago.

"Anyway, coming to a very pertinent question that you have raised here. As a doctor (and exam appearing), I have full reason to be circumspect. The majority of the seats are competitive and the pass percentage is FAR less than what is needed for IIT's or other Regional Colleges.

Hence there is more competition. I am told that most of the students do manage to get in Engineering. Look at this way too. With the proliferation of the colleges in South (Karnataka/ Tamil Nadu), it is easier to get a donation seat cheaper than Medicine. The similar donation runs in couple of lakhs for Medicine/ Surgery or any other branch."

The Lure Of Money

"Further, most of the Engineers opt for MBA. Which is easier for them. Making a career switch for Medicine is difficult. For the same reason, I opted out of IAS preprations. I'd rather work in a hospital (and preferably in a teaching institue) than push files.

This could be one reason. From this session onwards, one of my juniors, paid 48 lakhs in XXXX, Chennai for a M.D. General Medicine seat. One of the other juniours paid roughly Rs 25+ in YYYY, Tamil Nadu. Hence, the competitive pressures to get the sarkari funded seats is high. Where the fees is subsidised."


I can empathise with what Dr P is saying. And that makes me wonder whether simple demand-supply economics is what is keeping the engineers and management graduates silent. Make a noise but only to the extent that your life could really be affected. After all, you have Plan A, Plan B etc. Nothing wrong in that. Most of us have our lives to lead, including journalists !

Smart as they are, I don't expect a first year IIM graduate to descend to Jantar Mantar in the scorching Delhi heat. Protests unfortunately have to be held in the middle of the day, when temperatures could touch 45 degrees. Especially, when summer means a month spent poring over bill receivables in Citibank ! Or, maybe more dramatic like structuring Alipine convertibles in Goldman Sach's Zurich office. Okay, no more bitching !

Here's The Math

Back to Dr P. Where he reminds us of same basic numbers. "Privatisation of health care delivery has adversely affected the rural health care. If someone has "invested" a particular sum to "educate" himself through the specialisation (which again makes no sense for a developing country like India), he would want to re coup his "investments". It is a no brainer."

Dr P concludes by making an interesting point, about doctors leading revolutions..yes, Dr A, you did remind me, for a brief moment, of another doctor who abandoned his comfortable existence decades ago in south America to become one..yes, I refer to Che Guevera. Anyway, to return to Dr A, before one gets carried away on an uncharted idealistic journey.

"This remains my point of view. Let's take it this way. Doctors have been at the forefront of "revolutions". Till the time, there is radicalisation of the "movement", nothing would happen. I am studying and waiting for the oppurtune time. I wouldn't want to see a repeat of Mandal 1 where immolations had become fashionable. Mere "democratic forms of protest" like rallies isn't going to work. Strikes would. Unless they come in with ESMA. The future looks bleak."

Let me admit that apart from a friend or two, my association with the medical fraternity is restricted to meeting them when in dire need of medical assistance. So, I have no special love for them. And I am quite amazed at the sincerity with which some of them have been hitting out at the government over the OBC issue. And the revolutionary fervour..to take Dr P's point a step forward.

This War Will Not Be Fought In Cyber Space Or Through SMSs, It Will Be Fought On The Streets

Let me pick up a quote from Jam TV, a part of Jam Magazine. This interview was recorded this afternoon in Bombay following another round of protests in Azad Maidan. The protests met with a unusually brutal, almost pre-meditated response from the police.

The doctor/medical student being interviewed here says, "There is no point in discussing reservation in drawing rooms. These people don't understand this language. This battle will not be fought in cyber space, through SMSs or on mobile phones. It will be fought on the streets. Our time is precious too. We have to come out now and fight this..." I am moved, fellow bloggers ?

32 comments:

Bhargava on 2:55 pm said...

Thats right. I too made that observations ( me being a medico). Everywhere the discussion is about reservations inIIT and IIM ( forgetting aout other institutions).
But on street only medical students.

Other students also have a stake in this. They must join the fight.

Bombay Addict on 3:12 pm said...

There's a thought ! Good point Govind. I don't get it as well.

I might be wrong here, but it does seem to me that the noise from the non-medicos is largely on the blogosphere and on the Internet.

I think there is a huge difference between a group of students facing a water cannon and a group of students typing out blogs. I don't want to judge either but I wonder which method is more effective and which one is louder.

charlie on 4:18 pm said...

If this is the moral quality of doctors our medical colleges are producing, the state must seriously consider amending the admission rules for those seeking admission.

Is this the merit people are supporting?

Akshat on 7:43 pm said...

Unfortunate as it is, you do have a valid point Govind. Being an engineering student myself, I find it a shame that engineers are not at all visible in this protest.

And to be very frank, it seems that people are too callous to take notice. On posting messages on my own college's internet message board, I get responses telling me to quite down and study. It's a shame that they don't get the gravity of the situation.

However, one factor is the ongoing examinations in engineering colleges. My own final year exams are going on.

Can any body please provide me a means to contact the people spearheading the movement in delhi/ncr?

Akshat on 7:44 pm said...

and what is the problem with the moral quality of the medical students Charlie??? they atl;east have the guts to stand against what's wrong, and ALONE at that.

annika salot said...

yup, wake up all ur engieering and management students, this is abt ur future too. also, howcome no so called " media person - read filmstars aamir khan, activists medha patkar, the young poticos milind deora,sachin pilot" who claim they stand for the underdog standing up? doesnt the govt. understand that this cud lead a social backlash for sc/st students in colleges all over and wht abt brain drain. someone make arjun sing read the latest india today and watch rang de basanti.

The Prudent on 8:54 pm said...

I am all to support your movement against reservations but with a condition that I atleast do not want any of you bright women/men to commit the act of self immolation as were commited by my friends during 1991 when II too fought pitched battels against this rascles.
This time all those who opposed that sinister move of 1991 are now parents of teen boys and girls,therefore we extend our full and unqualified support to you.however it is to be noted that when we fought this battel we were almost alone as there were no media and the internet or blogs etc.We are commited to support you if you lead the march.
http://theprudent.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

moral quality of the doctors???i am proud of each and everyone of my fellow doctors who have the guts to stand up against this injustice.

its easy to sit here and comment.crib about the system.
you need guts to stand up for whats right and those docs have that.

as for the patients.....we have made sure the ones who need emergency care are not denied the same.
if people want good quality medical care at the right time they should make sure the government they have voted for is answerable and it behaves more responsibly.lathi charge and water cannons on doctors?is this how india treats its doctors?

today most of us (doctors)want to stay in india and work in india.the quota system leaves us with no choice but to run to the west.

charlie on 12:20 pm said...

Having guts is not equivalent to moral quality, dear Akshat. The young doctors on protest are rather foolhardy and shortsighted, they can not see beyond their 'nose' Their only concern is that their brother/sisters would not be as fortunate as they are, to enter the medical profession and thus be able to earn bagsful of money everyday. If they were far sighted they would see the advantages of the reservations.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say this, but in the case of IIM grads, protesting is just what's politically correct for them - it won’t change their lives - they already have secured themselves a great corporate job.

Get into medicine and your struggles have just about begun. I know of a young girl with dreams of making it as a doctor, and her mother is going through nightmares knowing that inspite of all those dreams and intelligence and all her life's savings she is willing to put behind her only child's education, this won't go beyond a dream. What happens then to the young kid for whom her entire sense of being is defined by her ambition.... in an attempt to do whatever it makes, the mother even went and met the minister who is closely associated with some large private, medical institutes only to be told 'madam, medicine is only for rich kids, not middle class children' -have 45 lakhs as donation and you have your self a seat. Yes, that's the cost to become a doctor - a donation of 45 lakhs. The good news here is its only money that can help - influence is irrelevant.

My advise to the mother was simple - let the child seek admission abroad, get a bank loan, go and do her medicine there - she will repay the loan faster than she would ever imagine and also spare herself the troubles that begin after you have got an MBBS degree....

A relative whom I consider one of the brightest young doctors I know - compassionate, brilliant mind and all the makings of a great doctor had to finally give in to his frustrations of being a doc at KEM hospital, realize the futility and go to London even if it meant he had to start from scratch and whatever he worked so hard on was irrelevant there. Giving the exams again, starting from scratch was a far better and easier option that continuing here, the worst living conditions as a resident doctor, and then if you are not some doctor's some one, you will never get a private practice running - breaking into the syndicate is that next big challenge....

I know a number of doctors, have had a dad for a doctor and its one profession that I feel has completely got sullied because of corrupt politicians, pathetic and openly practiced system of donations, and miserable teaching and government hospital conditions.
I am not surprised when even the brightest young individual who gets into this 'noble' profession, by the time he can even make a decent living for himself is so de-sensitized that patients seize to exist - its then about, how do I ensure every patient that walks into my clinic is that opportunity to make all the money I can...

The caliber of those who qualify for medicine is same if not higher than those who get into the IIT's and IIM's - but when they graduate, while the people at IIT and IIM almost immediately 'get a life', a doctor has to wait for another 10 to 15 years minimum after his graduation before he starts truly benefiting from his career choice.

I know in many ways what I say digresses a bit from what you have written, and this is certainly not a literary masterpiece, but I just could not resist making my point on what I think is really an unfair lot that doctors get today -

if they take to the streets even at the possible cost of sick patients, you can't help but feel their frustration (especially if you can see beyond the super rich doctors who are making loads of money) - their journey and road to success is so long, winding and tough, that you wonder how they ever made it.....

I was driving back home with a friend who is a doctor and another colleague of his and I started discussing the predicament of this young girl who wants to get into medicine at any cost - they had one response in unison - 'why doctor’ - most doctors today would tell people to consider other better opportunities - being a doctor is just not worth it – by the time they start to enjoy the fruits of their hard work, a lifetime would have already passed them by.

All those who have got that seat in a medical college have not got it easy – its not just taken hard work and merit but in some cases, all the money their middle class backgrounds could afford – its easier for them to feel the pain of lesser seats for deserving candidates than it is for the IIM/ IIT grads who are already discussing the value of their on-campus placement…..

Increased reservations will only make the dream of many more distant as ever – the practice of donations have already made medicine the career choice of just the rich – so with this increases reservation of seats, the doctors that graduate will be either from OBC’s/ SC/ ST’s or whose parents did not need to think twice before putting together almost half a crore for their child’s education….

Neither am I appearing for my CAT or trying to get a seat in IIT nor can I try my hand at the medical entrance exams but if I fight against reservations, I will do so for those struggling aspiring doctors who start out with great intentions till the system corrupts them completely.

If taking to the streets is the answer then let the means justify the ends.....

concerned doc said...

I agree completely with the previous post by anonymous.Being a doctor myself I was appalled by the repeated references to reservation in IIT's and IIM's alone.Why such insensitive reporting?And a few friends of mine in the engg field whom I spoke to were totally indifferent and have decided to look the other way.That's because they have landed plum jobs themselves.And while their first pay is a five figure amount most doctors have to struggle their way up, in the beginning working for free under seniors only to learn more.
And all the corporates(eng and mba) harp on about the rising fees of doctors and health care.One nerd was complaining about the consultation fees being fifty rupees when he was earning about 20 grand a month.
Remember we are also in a profession.And we need to earn too, for ourselves and our families.
As for the protests on the street.That will go on.In a country like India we need a slap in the face to sit up and take notice.Doctors on strike hopes to do just that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Concerned Doc - this is the anonymous post you are refering to - glad you agree because I am amplifying what I feel is possibly the predicament of many doctors across India...

For a large part of my life I did want to be a doctor having seen my dad but guess I did not really have it in me and I certainly did not have an OBC /SC/ST certificate to back me up....

Frankly, i can bet you if the engineers and MBA's took to the street it really would not matter... but even while docs go through their course, they are the life line of the services given to many patients across government hospitals - hopefully your protests will be heard because if you are a unhappy lot, many people stand to lose...

viewsonindia on 12:15 pm said...

You are absolutely right! It is strange that only doctors should be so motivated as to take to the streets. I saw the photograph on the front page of HT y'day with police mercilessly beating the students. I thought what is the difference between China and India. This is Tianamen square. I also remembered the movie Rang de basanti and thought what is the difference between the British and present day Government. They divided India on communal lines the present chaps divide India on caste lines. They beat innocent protestors with lathis, so does the pesent police. Wow!

Arun Cavale on 12:54 pm said...

Thought provoking Govind, but i must say the portions that came in from Dr P (or was that Dr A?)were not too clear in terms of the context.

Actually, the one key element missing in all this discussion is how easy it is to go buy an "instant" OBC certificate from the "market"..lets suppose I am an aspiring doctor/IIT-ian/IIM-ite, and apply to it from the general category..I dont make it..what do i do? just spend another 5K on buying myself a fake OBC tag, and loo! i get inside one of these institutions..the irony of this situation is that while nothing has changed - not my intellectual capability, not my economic status, not my social standing, nothing, just nothing - except that i now have a OBC tag..and that's enough to get me what everything else that i am couldn't.

Excellent.

Yes, the market for fake Caste certificate just got greener, more incentivised. Maybe that's the next new big business opty political India seeks to promote.

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy on 1:15 pm said...

Some one says that doctors need to be farsighted to see the benefits of reservations! Where in the World can this person show a successful reservation policy? Don't mention the US, they have a form of reservation called "affirmative action" which split the country in many pieces and debates and arguments went on from 1972 till 2003! What long term benefit is there, in reservation? Lets see one shining example anywhere in the World. I've been around, have'nt seen any such backward ideas getting support or becoming succesful.

Look around you, wake up and smell the coffee. No one is against emancipation of the downtrodden, at least no one in their right sense of mind, but to make such laws that create more divisions and split communities is a very short sighted decision by the Government. They are only looking at the next elections. Thats how short sighted they are!

concerned doc said...

Hi anonymous,
I sincerely hope you have found your calling no matter what it is.At the end of the day we are all contributing to the nation.In our own small ways.Being a doctor is nothing great nor does it entitle special privileges.Infact I personally feel there’s a lot more struggle involved right from graduation.Anyway those issues are to be delved into at a more appropriate time and place.
I beg to differ with your view that others joining in the protests will not matter.Infact it is in the interest of each and every citizen of India, ironically even the ones who stand to benefit from the quotas to come out in our support and take a stand against reservations.
Although we have initially kicked off mainly because we stand directly affected by it, I think it’s a good platform and opportunity for everyone to voice their dissent.Because otherwise, we all will be playing right into the hands of the very people who have created this mess.It would do all of us a world of good to realize that the people we have elected are not doing this for anybody’s upliftment except their own.It is ONLY them who stay to gain from the whole affair.
After 59 years of having these quotas if the country stands more divided than ever before what purpose have they served.I call this retrogressive evolution(as oxymoronic as it may sound).
Another very important point I would like to highlight is that, it’s not only a battle against the ludicrous percentage of quotas but also a plea to take a re-look at the entire system and web of quotas.
In Karnataka for example where capitation fees are one of the highest and with quotas like Tulu, Telugu-minority and a number of clauses(category 1a to 3b), a number of minority colleges which have their separate admission process, what hope is there for a middle class gen merit student?
If we do not gradually phase out the entire quota system based on caste or religion we’ll soon be looking at problems such as Sindhis, Parsees . Jains etc demanding minority reservation status.India can then no longer be called a secular country.It’ll just remain a land of minorities.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, but don't worry I am in the IT sector and the whole IT sector is gearing to join the protests. We are planning protest march on India Gate but can do so only in weekends.

newspaper junkie said...

GE, need to complement you -once again you have proved you are one of the brightest journalists with perspective in addition to the talent of some of the finest writing I have come a cross being a newspaper junkie myself.

You picked on this observation of medico's taking up the cause with more passion than IIM and IIT grads a few days and made it a topic well debated on your blog.....

looks like TOI finally saw this unique aspect - either some one there is reading your blog or some one thinks a bit like you with some delay :-)

Way to go -- u are one of the best and keep it going...

newspaper junkie said...

pls ignore the typos in my comment - a little tired after a long day....

Anonymous said...

Oppose increase of reservation quota in Indian educational institutions

Please email expressing your opposition to members of Indian parliament (contact info given below) and Indian news papers. Also, post this petition in web sites and forward to your friends who are interested in technological education and development in India. Please act now and make a difference.

http://164.100.24.208/ls/lsmember/emaillist.asp (Lok Sabha MP Contact Emails)
http://164.100.24.167:8080/members/AlphabeticalListBrief.asp (Rajya Sabha)
http://164.100.24.208/ls/lsmember/alphatel.asp (Lok Sabha Phone numbers)

We strongly oppose the human resource development ministry plans to increase the reservation quota in the institutions of higher learning from 22.5 per cent to 49 per cent. We urge the government to repeal this proposal. The continued economic development of the country depends upon the excellence of educational institutions in India. Foreign and domestic investment in Indian industries depends upon the availability of large pool of well educated Indian labor force. These shortsighted political divisive measures will harm the technological and economic development of the country.

Indian institutions of higher learning such as IITs and IIMs should be preserved and improved so that the research and education can be amongst the best quality in the world and will be the engine for the rapid technological and economic development of India. The institutions of higher learning are the pillars of technological development and economic growth of the nation. Without a strong merit based educational system, India will lag behind in economic and technological development, while other major nations in the region such as China, South Korea and China are rapidly developing.

Hence, we urge you to oppose and stop these counter productive measures to increase the reservation quota in the institutions of higher learning in India.

Scott Fish on 10:50 am said...

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I found your blog today and loved the things that you write about! Would you
be willing to write 1-3 small articles about India related topics that I can
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Would you like to trade links? (Our site is: http://www.India-News.in )


I would love for your contribution,

Anonymous said...

in my opinion we should kill the minister arjun singh. better to kill that ma ki***** than protesting. no need to protest. the best example is rang de basanti . someone do it or oneday i will. and i will not execpt it as in the movie as i have to contribute in building the nation. no divide and rule for our generation
JAI HIND
JAI BHARAT

Rahul Sengupta on 12:53 am said...

Well I think that the issue concerns students from All fields.
But the Docs started the protest first & in the process were lathicharged by the police ,that made them more determined to carry on the fight & eventually their protest became more visible.
But as things are goingon rightnow, I think it is going to spread to other students also & it should.

Anay Joglekar on 1:50 pm said...

Hi
I agree that- this battle cannot be fought through blogs or SMS. Below are my thoughts about this issue
--------------------------------
Appraisal of Reservations Policy

Protests against OBC quota in professional courses/ institutions are getting stronger and spreading in lengths and breadths of country. If we accept that – it is Vote Bank politics then we have to admit that – we are fighting a lost battle as far as outcome is concerned.

Also there shouldn’t be any doubt about our commitment for uplifting standard of living of economically and socially backward communities. But there is a feeling in my mind that protesters are losing their direction. As the current democratic system has failed to deliver and improve standard of living of masses, we have to offer sincere answers and raise serious questions when we oppose further reservations or reservations at all in education system.

I would like to raise a few questions which I think were missed by the protesters-

Performance Appraisal of Reservation Policy of Government of India- which I believe will tare the masks of so called Messiahs of Oppressed.

Like what is the expenditure on education and creating equal opportunities as per five year plans?

How much of it was actually provided and spent?

How much of it actually reached to projects for which it was allocated?

We should compare the amount provided for and work done – like number of schools started, facilities provided in school, efforts to bring kids to school etc.

How many students have benefited from the policy of reservations up till now?

Are there any particular castes – groups among backward castes that have benefited and castes which have marginally benefited?

Are there any particular regions that have done well through it?

Is there intra group discrimination – like backward and most backward among OBC, SC and ST?

How many people have actually benefited from reservations and whether their wards also continue to take support of these reserved seats?

There is Creamy Layer – for OBC and I guess it is like annual income of family less than INR 250000.

So questions are – How many upper caste families are below 250000 p.a. limit?

Is that Creamy Layer taken seriously- It is alleged that many beneficiaries of OBC quotas are from creamy layer but they simply don't disclose their correct family income and that goes unchecked.

Most important question is – If less than 10 % of Indian population is University Educated- it shows number of total seats available in our Universities. So even if 100 % of seats in professional institutions are reserved, how many years it will take to educate the students from backward castes?

Does government posses any road map about increase in number of seats in our Public Universities only which can be afforded by backward caste people?

Can we demand that Government should publish a White Paper on this issue which will help policy makers to decide course ahead.

Please help me to reach out with these points to protesting students. If you have email addresses of their organizations, do mail me at anayj@rediffmail.com

barbarindian on 1:49 am said...

I applaud the effort by the medicos but I think eventually they will be overpowered by a) private thugs (party cadres) and b) public thugs (cops). You can not fight a state powered by 1 billion people, most of whom have been weaned on welfare for generations.

Anay Joglekar, you raise a very important question about intra-group discriminations. As a matter of fact, most theories suggest that the maximum direct oppression caused upon Dalits were done by the so called OBC group of today. Chec out this blog, reality check

The best way out is perhaps agreeing to an arrangement where the absolute number of seats for G category folks will not be affected.

Barbarindians

Anonymous said...

reaally agree with u that here in this whole scenario effet is on all student community but stll doctors are on catch 22.

we too have covered various reservation issue, so just visit here too http://www.indiadaily.org/

together we can tackle the issue better.

regards
PujaRaina
www.indiadaily.org

amalh on 11:20 am said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
amalh on 3:59 pm said...

Arising from the quota issue it appears that many Doctors, Engineers and other professionals are feeling that their voice is not being heard sufficiently by the present political leadership. When this happens protests and strikes are not the only way to get an opinion heard. If an important and sizeable section of population feels that their interests are not being catered to fully in a democratic set up, perhaps the only viable option is to form their own political party. The professional section of population has by and large stayed out of the political process in India. It was not so when the process started during British times. Now they have no one to blame, if they feel they are not being heard.

Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Chartered accountants, experts (Professors and others with Ph.D.), Journalists,MBAs, Industrialists (of pvt. Ltd. Companies) NRIs and professional students (for student wing) should then be the only persons allowed to Join the new party if it is to make a difference. Some existing politicians would qualify to join if they wish to. Such a party will be elitist no doubt, but it can win elections, if people see hope of progress and prosperity in this new Professional Party of India. Many are unhappy with the present lot. Person such as Karan Thapar or Ratan Tata would be the right persons to initiate such a party.

Rooting out corruption and casteism should be a priority for this new party and focusing first on basics like electricity, water, roads and timely justice in courts, should be the focus, rather than a million other issues, while innumerable citizens thirst for healthy drinking water during their waking hours and timely justice in courts is not even a dream during their sleeping ones. It is not so in most other civilized countries of the world.

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