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1684: the uncontrollable Ganges
Documented causes: heavy rain
Documented effects: severe flooding of Ganges

"The diary of William Hedges, esq. …" (vol. 1, 1887)
p159: [1684] September 3.- The River of Ganges is risen so high as it has not been known in ye memory of man- the water being 3 or 4 foot high in ye Bazar. It is reported more than 1000 houses are fallen down in ye Dutch Quarters, and boats may row round their Factory in Hugly.
September 4.- I received Letters from Decca of ye 14th Ult. advising the Waters were risen so high that men waded up to their middle in most of the Streets.
At Pattana they say the whole country is over flowne; that they fear this flood will make rice dear, and cause a great scarcity of all provisions.
September 16.- About 1 o'clock this morning there arose a suddaine and violent Storm of wind, lightning, and thunder, accompanyed with fierce showers of raine, which continued all this day.
September 17 & 18.- The Storm continued: the Wind variable between the N.E. and S.E., the Moon two days after Full. The wind, after this storm, springing up at North, 'tis generally concluded the monsoon is broken up for this year.
We hear it blew hard those three days, viz., ye 16, 17, & 18 instant, at Ballasore; and if it should prove [the end, yet] ye monsoon has [been] very favourable in respect of other years.

Kashmir (a): 1685 map
Documented causes: rain
Documented effects: crops ruined

Pandit Anand Koul, "Geography Of The Jammu And Kashmir State" (2nd ed., 1925)
p105: "Year: 1685 A.D. In whose time: Hifzullah Khan. Extent of damages caused: The crops were spoiled by rains and famine occurred."

1685 (b) [to 1686, + see 1687]: southern India
Documented causes: drought + war
Documented effects: urban rioting; banditry / dacoity; tiger attacks

"Letters to Fort St. George, 1684-1685" (vol. 3, 1917)
p47 (letter from Port Novo, 6 Feb 1685): "... ye divan is much necessitated by ye want of Raines here this yeare, and w't: mony from the Interlopers may doe is hard to guesse."

p164 (letter from Conimeer [=Koonimedu, Tamil Nadu], 4 Sep 1685): "In ye management of any business wee have had for A long time a great deale of dry weather, w'ch: has dryed up all our Tanks, and allmost some of ye wells God Almighty send us some rain, or else wee fear 'twill end in A Famine in the Conntrey."

p166 (letter from Conimeer, 10 Sep 1685): "Wee are not Able to follow your orders concerning ye: provision of Rice for there is not sufficient procura[ble] to sustain this small towne, and truely as it looks something like one allready, if God Allmighty is not pleased to send some Rain, wee shall most Certainly have A Famine."

p198 (letter from Conimeer, 16 Nov 1685): ... "Wee have Rec'd: the Pags: 3,000 by the Peons and have since delivered it out to our Merchants they promise us fair, now since wee have had soe much Rain, ye want of wch: before did much discourage ym: and they will most certainly comply if Theeves and Robbers don't take away their cloth upon the Road the wayes being now Every where much Infested with them, wch: does in noe small measure Alarme them, …"

p201 (letter from Vizagapatam, c31 Oct 1685): "The Directions you are pleased to give concerning Paddy and Rice, shall be Punctually observed, and wee shall prevail with our people to send up A quantity on their P'rticular Acco'ts:, in which an Encouraging markett will be A prevailent Inducement wherin have given Assurance yt: yor: Occasions may be supplyed, tho: grain here ys yeare is allsoe scarce for want of Rain. "

p226 (letter from Vizagapatam, 2 Dec 1685): "Wee are now to Accquaint you of ye sad newes Recd: yesterday from Pundy Barba of yt: Townes being Ransacked, and pillaged by Robbers from ye neighbouring hills, and stole from thence to a Considerable Amount, and they were soe very cruell and unmercifull as to kill and wound many of ye Inhabitants, and left not any person a Ragg to cover themselves, they likewise broke open ye Compa's: Goedowne and stole Pagos: 330 being part of a 1000 Pags: (670 therof being before given out) by o'r: Concoply Jogee who was sent thither to Invest sd: 1000 pags: in Paddy and Rice agreeable to yor: orders none being procurable Elsewhere thro' ye great want of rain, soe many persons flocking thither they mett with a great booty, yor: peons from Bengall was there likewise Robbed of their Cloths and yor: packquett and one of ym: much wounded the othr: brought us this newes whom wee have clothed and send him to you, who will Render A P'rticular Relation of ye whole business wee have wrote to his Excellency ye Seer Lascar very urgently pressing him for Redress ..."

p236 (letter from Hugly, 20 Nov 1685): "Wee are sorry to understand there is such a scarcity of Rice and Paddy with you and likely to be more by the dryness of weather, in regard wee have not been able to procure more y'n 50 Mds: Old Rice (this year's not being yett come in) all over the town that is worth sending by this shipp, wee hope to supply you largely by ye Chandois of a better sort and new."
"A History of Gujarat: Vol. II. The Mughal Period from 1573 to 1758" (1957)
p188: The years 1685 and 1686 saw successively drought and famine in Gujarat, and there was considerable scarcity of grain and food-stuffs with heavy increase in their price. To reduce the hardship of the poor Muslims and other citizens of Ahmadabad, all taxes on grain were remitted by imperial orders at the intercession of the Shaikh-ul-Islam in 1685 and of the provincial diwan in the following year.
"Bengal and Madras papers. Vol. I: 1670-1688" (1928)
(letter from Company agent at Hugly to Fort St. George, 20 Nov 1685): "Wee are sorry to understand there is such a scarcity of Rice & Paddy with you and likely to be more by ye dryness of weather, in regard wee have not been able to procure more thn. 50 Mds. old Rice (this yeare's not being yett come in) all over ye town that is worth sending …"
Ali Muhammad Khan (trans. M.F. Lokhandwala), "Mirat-i-Ahmadi: A Persian History of Gujarat" (1965)
pp275-6: "A famine occurred in the year one thousand and ninety-six. In response to a petition submitted by Comprising all perfections, Shaikh-ul-Islam Qazi-ul-Quzat [a title approximately meaning Chief Justice] to the effect that poor Muslim residents of Ahmedabad are in a distracted condition on account of dearness of corn: Revenue on corn should be condoned [English word here should be: forgiven, in the sense of being not demanded]. A royal order was issued to the Diwan of the Subah [approximately, Provincial Governor] that the revenue on corn of the Subah was condoned [=forgiven] for one year. Shaikh Muhiyuddin, son of Qazi-ul-Quzat Shaikh Abdul Wahhab ... held the office of a judge, an amin, a collector of jiziya and in addition a price recorder. Common people, on suspicion that he took bribe from corn-dealers and causequently, he fixed a high price, men and women affected by high prices complained to him on Friday when he was proceeding for namaz, started pelting stones, clods of earth and throwing dust at him. The Palki in which the Shaikh was moving, broke. He took himself to his house in great difiiculty. He wrote about the true state of affair to the Chief Qazi Shaikh-ul-Islam, out of jealousy mention'g therein the cause of people’s excitement to the instigation of Khwaja Abdullah, the city-Qazi. …" [The libelled Abdullah ended up with a promotion to a prince's household]
"Mémoires de François Martin ..." (vol. 2, 1932)
p411 (Nov 1685): "Des gens d'une tribu de gentils nommées matias se soulevèrent en plusieurs endroits de Guzerate, mais particulièrement à Baroche; ils prenaient pour prétexte la misère où ils étaient réduits par les violences, les vexations des gouverneurs des lieux et de leurs officiers. Un corps d'environ 12 ou 15,000 hommes, mais sans chefs, sans conduite, mal armés, leurs femmes et leurs enfants avec eux, s'emparèrent de Baroche. ... On reconnut pourtant que ces pauvres gens n'avaient agi que par un coup de désespoir. Sur les mouvelles qu'on eut à Ahmedabad, le gouverneur envoya des troupes à Baroche qui firent main basse sur ce peuple; ils ne firent point de résistance; il en arriva de même dans les autres lieux où ils avaient pris les armes. ..."
Yvonne Robert Gabelé "Une Parisienne aux Indes au 18e siècle (Madame François Martin)" (1937) [a narrative based largely on the journals of François Martin, founder of the French trading base at Pondicherry]
pp67-9 (1686): "A son retour ua Coromandel, François Martin s'était tout de suite aperçu que les vivres avaient beaucoup renchéri, sur ce qu'ils étaient à son dernier séjour. Ils apprirent alors qu'une famine affroyable menaçait cette partie de l'Inde. les pluies avaient totalement manqué depuis deux ans. Les contrées au nord de Pondichéry souffrant devantage que celles du Sud, et les gens commençaient à affluer au district de Tanjor, qui n'avait pas à craindre la disette, arrosé comme il l'est, par ses trois rivières, dont les cultivateurs recueillent l'eau en de grands étangs, d'où ils la canalisent ensuite à travers le pays.
Mais cette cherté des vivres cause de forts ennuis journaliers à Fr. Martin. Il lui est très difficile de réunir les cargaisons des navires, qui attendent en rade, les ouvriers étant languissants, sans force au travail.
De Madras, on faisait savoir au Directeur, que la famine s'y faisait extrèmement sentir, en ce mois d'Octobre, et que des cas de mortalité commençaient.
De Golconde, on écrivait également à Pondichéry, que les rues de la Capitale étaient, par suite de l'extrême disette, remplies de morts ou d'agonisants. Dans les campagnes de ce Royaume, on rencontrait à chaque pas, des cadavres et des ossements de malheureux, qui allaient brouter l'herbe et mouraient. Les routes étaient obstruées par de longues files de gens un peu plus valides, fuyant le fléau, mais après quelques jours de chemin, ils succombaient de même.
Certes, en France, la disette fut souvent extrême dans les campagnes, l'hiver surtout, pendant les années qui viennent de s'écouler, comme le dit madame Martin à son mari, mais cette famine de l'Inde dépasse en horreur tout ce qu'on peut imaginer.
Le Directeur Martin fait alors venir des barques remplies de riz, qu'il fait vendre aux malheureux, à bas prix. Il peut ainsi charger ses navires, après avoir accordé à ses tisserands, blanchisseurs et batteurs, une légère augmentation sur les prix des premiers contrats. Mais que de mal, il se donne!
En Décembre, de mouveau, les marchands vinrent en corps à la Loge, disant qu'ils ne sauraient fournir les cargaisons de toiles promises, vu le manque de vivres de tout le pays aux alentours. Et madame Fr. Martin admire la patience de don mari, qui, très habilement, fait succèder la douceur aux menaces, afin d'obtenir d'eux ce qu'il désire. On apprenait, entre-temps que deux mille personnes étaient mortes de faim à Madras.
Mémoires de François Martin ... (vol. 2, 1932)
p448 (Aug 1686): Dès notre arrivée à Pondichéry [late in May], la cherté des vivres y faisait déjà souffrir le peuple; elle venait du manque de pluies qui n'avaient point donné l'année dernière et une grande sécheresse dans celle-ci. On y appréhendait une famine, et il y avait beaucoup d'apparence; il faut l'eau absolument pour la culture du riz, l'abondance de pluie en fait la grande récolte. Les pays du nord de Pondichéry étaient encore plus mal, les habitants de ces côtes-là passaient au sud dans la province de Tanjore pour se parer de la faim. Cette province est traversée par deux ou trois grandes rivières qui tirent leurs sources bien avant dans les terres à l'ouest; leur cours vient de loin; elles grossissent des pluis du dedans le pays et de plusieurs ruisseaux qui tombent dedans. Les habitants du Tanjore, lorsqu'ils manquent de pluie, tirent de grands canaux de ces rivières pour faire entrer l'eau dans les terres et, par d'autres canaux moyens, ils la dispersent ensuite où il en est besoin. On trouvait l'abondance dans cette province; nous fîmes venir de là plusieurs bâtiments chargés de riz pour en fournir aux gens de la terre qui étaient au service. On en manquait souvent au marché, ce qui les portait aussi à quitter pour aller au sud.- Nous appréhendions de ne pouvoir pas former entièrement la cargaison du navire le Coche; nous prenions les marchands qui pressaient de leur côté les tisserands.
... (Sep 1686?) On eut beaucoup de peine à la réception des toiles que les marchands fournissaient; on en rebuta beaucoup afin de les obliger à les livre suivant les montres; ils s'excusaient sur le misérable état du pays et à la vérité ils avaient raison à cause de la cherté des vivres; les ouvriers étaient languissants au travail, sans force et qui ne fournissaient pas de quoi s'entretenir avec leurs familles.
... (Oct 1686) La disette de vivres était générale dans le royaume de Golconde jusqu'à Aurengabad et avec toutes les apparences d'une famine de même dans la suite par le manque de pluie. Les habitants de Madras souffraient extrêmement, la mortalité commençait. …
Cete famine qui a désolé une partie de l'Inde et fait partir des milliers de personnes commençait à entrer dans sa force. On nous écrivait de Golconde que les rues étaient remplies de corps morts et de languissants, tout le royaume de même, le campagne remplie de cadavres et des ossements des défunts, des gens qui allaient brouter l'herbe ainsi que des bêtes et qui mouraient. Ce fléau s'étendait plus de 300 lieues de chemin en longeur et en traverse. Il n'y a point d'histoire ni sainte ni profane qui parle d'une pareille désolation; c'était un concours de peuples qui venaient du Nord pour passer au Sud, des files ainsi que des processions; une partie de ces gens-là succombant de misère et de travail restaient dans les chemins. C'était là un temps de charité bien employé; la Compagnie approuva depuis avec applaudissement ce qu'on avait fait en son nom; les officiers du comptoir, chacun suivant son inclination et ses moyens assistèrent aussi ces pauvres gens. Il en est dans les Indes ainsi que dans beaucoup d'endroits de l'Europe où des gens aisés et d'un charactère dur et impitoyable cherchent à profiter de la misère des pauvres; il arrivait à Pondichéry des barques du côte du sud chargées de riz: les gens qui vendent ces denrées de concert avec les brahmes du gouvernement achetaient ces grains en gros qu'ils revendaient après fort cher; je crus devoir m'opposer à cette inhumanité. Je fis acheter le riz de trois grandes barques qui arrivaient dans ce temps; on le distribua ensuite aux pauvres gens au prix qu'il revenait à la Compagnie. Cete inclination tendre et pitoyable de notre grand roi à soulager ses sujets dans les disettes de même a fourni des exemples à imiter. ...
Tous les serviteurs de la Compagnie ne pouvant subsister de la paye ordinaire, ils vinrent en troupes prier d'y avoir égard. On leur fit distribuer du riz pour les porter à rester; nous y étions d'autant plus obligés que, les blanchisseurs et les batteurs de toiles nous quittant, on n'aurait pu mettre la cargaison en état. ...
... (Nov 1686) Les marchands nous vinrent trouver en corps dans ce mois; ils représentièrent qu'à cause de l'extrême disette qu'il y avait dans le pays, il n'était pas possible de fournir toute la cargaison dont ils étaient convenus. On les ramena par les assurances qu'on leur donna qu'on aurait égard aux conjonctures présentes; je les engageai aussi de détacher une partie des gens de leur corps qui étaient inutiles à Pondichéry pour aller dans les lieux des manufactures et presser eux-mêmes les tisserands, ce qu'ils firent et qui réussit. La misère était grande, on écrivait de Madras qu'il était mort de faim plus de 2,000 personnes.
(Dec 1686) Nous eûmes assez d'occupation pendant tou le mois de décembre à presser les marchands et à recevoir les toiles qu'ils nous fournissaient; la douceur et les menaces auxquelles on était obligé de venir quelquefois avança beaucoup la cargaison.
J. Bertrand, "La Mission du Maduré" (vol. 3, 1850)
La famine qui depuis quelques années fait d'horribles ravages dans toutes ces contrées, semble avoir chassé du fond de leurs forêts des légions de tigres affamés. Leur férocité et leur audace ne connaissent plus de bornes: ils attaquent des troupes de cent personnes, saisissent la première victime qu'ils rencontrent et l'emportent dans les bois pour la dévorer ...
Henry Davidson Love "Vestiges of Old Madras, 1640-1800" (vol. 1, 1913)
p478: Fort St. George Consultations. [19 Aug 1686] ...
"In regard so many poor people do daily die in the streets for want of food, Itt is agreed that Pagodas 100 be given on the Right Honble Companys Account to buy Rice for them, and that a collection be made among all the English for the same purpose, Severall having already offered very liberally towards itt. And we do appoint the burying Garden to be the place where they are daily to receive their Almes, and Narrand, the Chief Dubass, to get the Ric[e] boiled, and see it distributed to the most necessitous people which, though they are very numerous, yet there may be sufficient to keep them alive till it shall please God to send more plenty, there being no less then two thousand poor creatures ready to perish for want, whose sad spectacle with the lamentable cries sadly fill and afflict our Town. . . ."

[27 Dec 1686] "The Famine greatly increasing, and many poor people dying daily, and great numbers ready to starve, Itt is order'd that Pagodas 50 be given for to buy Rice, a generall collection being made throughout the Town, what formerly collected being all expended." (Fac. Rec. F. St. G., vol. iv., 19th Aug. and 27th Dec, 1686.)
Henry Davidson Love "Vestiges of Old Madras, 1640-1800" (vol. 3, 1913)
p409: Dr. William Roxburgh to Government. (P.C., vol. clxxxi, 8th Feb., 1793.) ...
"The Rajah of Pittapore's [=Pithapuram, Andhra Pradesh] Family Bramen, a respectable old man, informs me that he finds among the records of his Grand-Father and Father an account of a most dreadful Famine which prevailed over the northern Provinces during the years 1685, 86 and 87. During the first year, grain was not so scarce, and sold for about 20 Seer of Paddy, or 10 of Rice, to the Rupee. During the second it became more scarce, and sold at double that rate; but the last year there was only one shower fell, so that every thing was most completely burnt up. There was scarce any kind of grain to be had. The price rose to be at the rate of one seer of rice the rupee. Very few people survived these three years. The three first succeeding years to that Famine were remarkably wet."
"Bengal and Madras papers. Vol. I: 1670-1688" (1928)
(letter from Fort St. George to Company agent at Hugly, 26 Aug 1686): ...
"If it should so fall out that you engage in a warr with Bengall, we know not well which way you can supply us with rice from thence, therefore we desire you (because of our great want) to contrive some other way to supply us therewith, and we think if you can spare some burdensome vessells either at prize shipps or others ... you would do well to send her to Arraccan with money sufficient to buy her cargo of rice there, with order to bring it thither, with some factors or others upon her to see that the money bee well laid out, and that shee bee speedily dispatched to us, for here are nothing but signs of a very severe famin, and the more rice wee can get from any part the better …"

(letter from Fort St. George to Company Presidency at Surat, 23 Oct 1686): … "if your interest could furnish us with rice, it would bee a most acceptable kindnesse and yield great profitt, being under the miseries of a sore famine, throughout the country, hundreds starving each day."
"Oprechte Haerlemsche courant", 5 Jun 1687 (newspaper)
"Van Parijs heest men schrijven, dat tot Port St. Louis gearriveert is een Frans Oost-Indies Schip, manquerende van primo October des voorleden Jaers van de Kust van Coromandel en hebbende tot Suratte aengeweest en Brieven vor d'E: E: Heeren Bewinthebberen van onse Oost-Indische Compagnie mede gebragt: particulieren hebben ook Brieven van Matra-Sepatan van den 15 Septemb., van inhout, dat d'Oorloog tusschen d'Indiaense Konigen gecesseert was en dat schaersheyt van Broot en verdere Levens-middelen hoe langs hoe meer toenam."

1685 (b-extra) [to 1687]: the Mughal sieges
Documented causes: drought + siege and scorched earth warfare
Documented effects: cultivation impossible

C.A. Kincaid & D.B. Parasnis, "A History of the Maratha People" (2nd. ed., 1931)
pp130-1 (the Mughal siege of Bijapur): "The chief resource of the Bijapur king was in the undaunted spirit of his people. As early as June 1685 the Bijapur cavalry cut the communications of Azam Shah who was in command of the besieging force. At last, the prince’s officers begged him in a council of war to retreat. [Footnote: "Sarkar, Vol. IV [i.e. Jadunath Sarkar, "History of Aurangzib" (vol. 4, 1916)], p. 316."] But the fear that his brother, Shah Alam, might pay him back the cutting jests that he had himself made about Shah Alam’s disasters made the prince cling to his post. Aurangzib, approving his son’s conduct, determined to open up his son’s communications. He himself was at Sholapur and had no provisions to spare. But he ordered Shahabuddin Khan, hereafter known as Firoz Jang, to set out from Ahmadnagar with twenty thousand bullock-loads of grain. The Bijapur government guessed rightly that the fate of their city depended on the failure or success of Firoz Jang. Sarza Khan, and Abdur Raf, with eight thousand horse, threw themselves with the utmost valour on Firoz Jang’s convoy. For some time the fate of the relieving force hung in the balance. But Firoz Jang rose to the height of his recent honours. Through his generalship and the stimulating presence of Jam Begam, one of Azam Shah’s wives who, from the back of an elephant, cheered on her husband’s succours, the convoy reached in safety the headquarters of the besieging army. [Footnote: "Khafi Khan; Scott, Deccan [i.e. J. Scott, "Ferishta's History of the Deccan" (1784)]."] From this moment the tide turned; and no longer anxious about his son’s safety, Aurangzib was able to dam the stream of reinforcements that Madannapant was sending from Golconda."
Sir T.W. Haig et al. "The Cambridge Shorter History of India" (vol. 2, 1935)
p443: "By June, 1686, the siege of Bijapur had lasted for fifteen months, partly owing to the personal jealousy and quarrels of the imperial officers. Aurangzib in that month left Sholapur and personally assumed command of the siege. ... The siege was vigorously pressed, and, though the besieger suffered severely from scarcity, due to a famine in the Deccan, the garrison was in worse case, and in September lost heart."
H.M. Elliot (comp.) "The history of India, as told by its own historians. The Muhammadan period." (vol 7, 1877)
p328 (from "Muntakhabu-l Lubab" by Khafi Khan): [events of AH 1096-7 / 1685-6 AD, focusing on the siege of Golkonda] ... heavy fire greatly harassed the defenders. The scarcity and dearness of grain and fodder (within the city) was extreme, so that many men of wealth were disheartened; who then can describe the position of the poor and needy? Throughout the Dakhin in the early part of this year there was a scarcity of rain when the jowár and bájrá came into ear, so they dried up and perished. These productions of the autumn harvest are the main support of the people of the Dakhin. Rice is the principal food of the people of Haidarabad, and the cultivation of this had been stopped by war and by scarcity of rain.

1686: a complaint
Documented causes: aggression against the East India Company
Documented effects: an embarrassing war

"Records of Fort St. George: Despatches From England, 1686-1692" (1929)
p13: [from general letter from the Company in London to the President & Council at Fort St. George, 9 Jun 1686; received 6 May 1687] Your complaint of want of money and too many ships is well grounded, if you consider our affairs under ye ancient peaceable way before they were disturb'd by ye Interlopers & ye Dutches designs against Us in Bengall, unto which two Partyes Wee look upon the Mogulls Gov'rs but as Instruments, which Wee hope to compell by fair means or foul to use us better hereafter.
You say trade is ye only way of raising a considerable revenue and who is so weak as to think otherwise, and who ever did since the world began indulge trade so much in any port of India, as Wee have done in that, and are yet doing, But with your leaves Wee will have a ground, or quitt rent yearly for every house within your Precincts and a small [Poll] money for every head as the Dutch have at Battavia, tho' less than one fourth Part of what they take (where no freedom of trade is allow'd) shall satisfy Us, where the greatest freedom of all trade is allow'd that ever was known in India, and our Customs Wee will have to be there 5 p.Cent, in kind, and in all other our fortifyed places in India, and this Wee know is just and so moderate, that it can meet with no ill successe, If those in the front of Our business do not underhand obstruct the Companys most necessary progress towards a Revenue, without which it's impossible to make ye English nation's station sure and firm in India, upon a sound Politicall Basis, and wth.out which Wee shall alway's continue in ye state of meer merch'ts subject to be turn'd out at ye Pleasure of the Dutch & [at?] the discretion of the Natives, as Wee have been shamefully & dishonourably for many years together.

[It is possible that there was some pre-arrangement of this complaint, as part of a campaign to obtain the King's approval for military action against the Company's enemies, beyond the purely defensive action permitted by its Royal Charter. The approval lasted while King James II was in power, but was swiftly withdrawn after he was replaced by his daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William of Orange in 1688-9. Meanwhile, the Mughal Emperor had taken a personal interest in stopping the conflict, commonly known as "Child's War" after its main Company instigator. In 1690, it came to an abrupt and humiliating halt, and the Company humbly rebuilt its Bengal headquarters on a new site among the marshes of the lower Hooghly River, at the little village of Kalikata (British spelling, Calcutta).]
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