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Government Education in Bangalore

At times it seems that Bangalore citizens have forgotten that their government schools exist.

More than half of the schools in Bangalore are private unaided schools, while in the entire state of Karnataka, 81% of schools are government schools. Government schools are seen as a school of last resort, and face high dropout. Children who do survive government schooling often end up without basic skills -- reading, writing, and arithmetic. Still, there are more than 200,000 children attending government schools in our city.

By initiating the Karnataka Learning Partnership (, the Akshara Foundation ( is trying to get more citizens informed about government schools and how they can help. See our blog ( for more details.

My question here is: What would citizens like you need to be inspired to help make government schools better? What support would you need? What would you need to know? How can we help get internet-savvy people in Bangalore out there helping in schools and advocating for change?

silkboard's picture

An excellent point - "advocating for change"

Gowri, thanks for this excellent post.

I have a conflict running in my mind. One thing I am often told is - charity never scales. When trying to help with issues like these, what should be the role of active citizens? "become a traffic warden" if you are so driven about traffic - can this scale, or is this right?

While I am nobody to belittle those who volunteer to do things (traffic wardens, or volunteer teachers). But primary education is a prime area of social responsibility local governments have. Pushing them to increase allocations in this area, making them divulge how they spend currently allocated amounts, and how they monitor the effects of their spending - do you think this type of help will go a longer distance?

Questioning and pushing and helping those  who are "supposed" to do the job - I think this approach will bring us more results.

On the other hand volunteering activities bring quick results and satisfaction, how much ever small the area of impact may be. This is the other side of the conflict that runs on my, and I am sure many other people's minds.

Welcome to Praja.

idontspam's picture

Dose of professionalism

Quick win
One area where we can help is coming up with checklist to rate the schools and have a praja rating system for the best run govt school in the state (start with BLR) which will be validated and approved by govt/experts. Praja volunteers and working groups can participate in the annual rating exercise with the help of the education dept.

Medium term plan
First, Set up a working group to collect all opinions, ideas, earlier reports & studies done on the methods to improve govt school system. Second, Define the desired state for these schools. Third, brainstorm the methods and expenses and put up a timebound roadmap to take these schools to excellence. Implementing them and monitoring them has to be done by a govt. authority.

s_yajaman's picture

Does everything have to scale?


I personally feel that this scaling question reflects a business mindset.  It is now almost a holy cow!  If something is worth doing, it needs to be scalable!  I am not so sure. 

I am more of a "It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness".  I will give you an example from Madras.  Apparently,homemakers in one part of Adyar organize "homework" sessions for poorer children.  They all turn up to the locality, get a glass of milk and a snack, do their homework and then go back home.  Is this scalabale?  I don't know.  Does it make a difference.  I think so. 

It does not have to be an all or nothing approach.  If each of us enables one child to access education in some way, that is good enough. 


Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

navshot's picture

Education and activism

This is nothing specific to govt. education; it applies to other initiatives too. I think a majority would get interested in volunteering/charity if they can connect themselves with the big picture. If you can convince them that their efforts would impact in a quantifiable way, more people would help unconditionally.

Open ended requests (like "please help whatever you can") would always create a block in one’s mind. The chances of success is more if you ask specific help and show them how exactly and to what extent it is going to help solve the issues.

A simple example: Every year we have drives in our company calling for volunteers and donations towards education (probably a part/full of it goes to Akshara foundation). This year, we were able to sponsor for about 4 times more underprivileged children than last year!! How was this possible? Last year's campaign just highlighted the issues (the big picture) and called for donations. But this year, with that, it was made clear of the amount (Rs. X) that is required to support one child. So, more employees could connect with it and they could see the kind of impact it would have on one child if they donated Rs. X.

Hence my suggestion is to define what you need clearly. For example: “2 hours of one person’s time on Saturdays for 3 months would help 10 children learn basics of arithmetic, which otherwise they wouldn’t.” OR “Rs. 5000 per year would support a child’s all education needs” and so on.

-- navshot
gowriv's picture

Volunteering in Schools

I'm happy to see such interesting responses on this. 

 I've thought a lot about this question of scale, and sometimes it looks like a trade-off between quality and quantity.  If I do something high-quality and simple and local, I must sacrifice scale, and if I scale something up, I lose my sense of what's happening on the ground.

 I think this is a misconception.  A very small-scale effort can have huge synergistic impacts if it develops a good model or coordinates with other efforts to make something happen.  The key is the coordination.  If you are setting up a school next door to a languishing government school and providing decent education to children, that is not coordination -- that is unnecessary duplication (I mean this as a hypothetical and I don't have anything against private schools...they actually provide good competition for the government!) 

 I think the key is that you should be thinking about how your work fits into the big picture, whether you are reaching 5 kids or 5 million.

 If you all are interested in working in schools, we at Akshara are now trying to develop a volunteering model through which people can visit schools and write about it on our blog (  The blog currently contains general information about government schools but will eventually (hopefully!) be a more dynamic space for community engagement in schools.  We have an extensive school database for the state ( and are starting to build it up with better information about schools (right now it mainly has programme-related information on it).

Would praja members be interested in our initiative?  It's still in the initial stages but it could use some enthusiastic input.

santsub's picture

Re: Volunteering In Schools

This is the most noble thing one can do to help our society. IF each of us can volunteer in each of these schools we can definitely make a difference. I would like to be a part of this program. My only hinderence at this point is Iam out of the country and will be interested to do anything from my side that could immediately be of help and also want to be on list to volunteer when  I am back..

silkboard's picture

The talk of scale and collaboration

Srivathsa, Gowri, I didn't say I buy that talk of 'scale'. I merely expressed a personal dilemma. The way I think of it, scale is the wrong word. The right word is impact. Anything that can make a lasting impact or cause change, local or large scale is welcome. Forget that, anyone wanting to do any volunteering, without bothering about impact etc and over analyzing things - nobody should belittle that. Gowri/Navshot, liked the way you talked about "making it fit in the big picture".

Gowri, I am sure many of us will be interested. But not sure how many will realistically be willing to commit regular time (that is where all the problem begins, and number of volunteers dwindle - I have a family, I am abroad, I can only do Saturday evenings, can't commit to a time of week as work keeps me busy etc etc). How about this:

  • We set up a voluntary teaching calendar here. Along with it, there will be detailed course material (what needs to be taught/covered, which school). And then, a group of people can combine (by sharing the teaching work) to make sure at least someone takes the classes on a given day. This sort of collaboration could get us more volunteer teachers.
  • Do you want to move your school blogs here? Together we attract more people, and the online-driven volunteer program to go with it can get more folks interested.
  • And to go with all this, with time, we will track/watch Bangalore's primary education initiatives (under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan or other) and can try to 'lobby' for things with right people.

Be sure that I am only thinking of ways to help you extend your reach. To me, Praja's philosophy is that there are a lot of people with energy, but they don't get the right outlets. On the other hand, lots of organizations like yours do nice and noble things, but your deeds may not be known to as many.

Can talk more over email (just sent you one), but can talk openly via comments here as well. Your pick.

s_yajaman's picture

SB - Not attacking you :)


I was not attacking you.  Sorry if it came out that way. 

On this one at least - there has to be die-hard committment from anyone who volunteers.  Our drop out rate cannot be worse than the students :). 




Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

gowriv's picture

Scaling is Not Bad

I think that even though scale has become an overused catchword in development -- to the point that it has almost no meaning anymore -- it is actually a very useful concept. But the thing to remember is that it's not the only way to go.

Now, about volunteering. I did not say anywhere that I wanted volunteers to teach in schools. In fact, I don't think this is often possible. After all, teachers are qualified professionals and it does no good to create a mindset that undermines that.

This does not have to be on a regular basis. Even a one-time visit is good enough.

What we are looking for is organic -- people to go to schools in their neighborhoods and find out what needs they have. They can write about their experiences on our blog and share with their friends as a way of creating awareness. And they can then set up relationships with shcools that fit their time availability, whether it's just that one-time visit, a weekly visit to support teachers, a donation, or a yearly event.

We'd prefer to host blogs/information separately from praja since we already have a government partnership in place and want to coordinate this under that platform. But do keep the suggestions and thoughts coming -- this idea is still in the initial stage here.

tsubba's picture


gowri, thanks for starting these discussions. may your efforts succeed to such a grand scale that efforts like yours become unnecessary. may your efforts succeed in curing the government schools of their congenital defect of being third class schools with third class prospects that require constant external life support from the first class citizens*. may your efforts succeed in making the quality of government schools so high that people people from all walks of life send their kids to these schools thus making external monitoring unnecessary. may there only be government schools - all else being unequal may education be equal and may schooling be a rich formative experience in reality. may your efforts make efforts like yours unnecessary. (*well, it was not congenital, early government schools produced some first class world citizens. but with people moving out of govt schools they fell in bad times)
ssheragu's picture

Hai Gowri I am  offering

Hai Gowri

I am  offering myself as a volunteer for govt. scools

Srinath Heragu

kbsyed61's picture

It needs a conviction and commitment !

 It is time everybody start working towards strengthening the education system, specially elementary and secondary education. This is  a task that neither can be achieved overnight nor can be a one time volunteer oppurtunity. Before I discuss about volunteers, let me put forth the few basic points about what ails the primary education in our country, Bangalore in particular.

1. Facilities - I don't think any govt school located in B'lore can confidently claim that it has a reasonable facilities for its tecahers, staff and students. Majority are in pathetic conditions. 

2. Teachers and Staff - Even though more and more teachers are appointed every year, still the Student/Teacher ratio is very high in the range of 50:1.

3. Quality of Teaching - There would be only few exceptions we can say with certainty that are truly doing the justice to the students and the country. The quality has gone so low that, even after 5-7 years of schooling, students are still struggling to read and write proper sentences, be it in English or Kannada. The key to education is ability to read, write and comprehend. If students can not read and write, I don't know whether they should be called literate by any standards? I am not sure after getting the appointments, how many teachers have read a book or upgraded their knowledge and skills.

 One can write pages and pages on each of the above listed reasons. I am sure you got the gist of my discussion here. Therefore it is important that we first identify the root causes for such a bad situation in education sectors and network with all the stake holders to find the remedies and fixes.

  My own experience with my children and the programs that I volunteer at, tells me that children by the age of 7-8 yrs (2nd or 3rd grade) should be able to read fluently and write small descriptive sentences. If we can achieve this in all schools, believe me the standard and quality of their eductaion would take  a leap. Because other subjects like social, science and Math are all about descriptions and understanding. Once you have empowered the child with tools to read and write, they will be on their own. If you can't read and write, you can't do well in Math, science and social studies? If you can't read and understand what the question how are you going to write. Therefore it is very important to equip every child with ability to read, comprehend and write.

 Therefore I would suggest that all the efforts to be in 2 prongs. 

  1. Help the High school entrants (8th grade) with skills in reading and writing. They should be helped to read and write in atleast 2 langauges Kannada and English. Also High School teachers should be forced to enhance their skills and knowledge level. Incentive/Pay increase linkage would be helpful.
  2. More resources and skills to be placed on ensuring that there are Reading and Writing requirements/standards are met by every child in the Primary/Elementary schools. Teachers, Staff and school management should be held responsible for achieving those results

 Also it is very important to understand that, government should play a greater role in education system. If it is left to private, poor and lower middle class are at mercy of these sharks.

 There should be a standard recruitment policy for teachers and educators, followed by policy for getting certified every 3 years for continuing in teh job. Off couarse they all need to be paid reasonably good salary and perks based on their performance.


tsubba's picture

syed- education

syed thanks. some very clear thinking.
kbsyed61's picture

What is that we can do............


 Thanks for those concise comliments. You have uplifted my spirits to write more on this.

 Continuing from my earlier posting, in education sector, everybody knows what is failing and what has failed. It is the standard of basic education. In elementary education it is the basic reading, writing and comprehension. Along with capability to count and keep an account of earning/spending. This is the basic requirement which we see has not been met over a period of 2 to 3 decades. There are various ways to mitigate the situation. Here are my humble suggestions, particularly to government schools in Bangalore and its sub-urbs.

1. Facilities - This is the area that we can help the government to uplift the school 's basic facilities. Every school should have toilets, safe drinking water and electricity. I am sure there are many among us would be ready to lend a helping gladly.

2. Teaching Materials - This is another area where public can pitch into fill the gaps left by Govt and its babus. Time to come up with a standard list of things that is a must in every school like Charts, Books in Library, laboratory, Clay Models etc.

3. Teacher Training & Evaluation - Biggest contribution that we can do for teachers is to boost their morale and remind them of their noble profession, their responsibility and changes that they can bring individuals and society. They should be recognized and encouraged to enhance their skill levels and bring in thier new ideas. Their promotions and salary increases to be linked with their performance. A regulatory/certification body to regularly evaluate thier competence in teaching and new skills.

4. Text Books - This is a area, I am yet to come up with a relative ease in ensuring that every child gets text books at reasonable/affordable price. I am looking forward for the Suggestions in this area.

5. Evaluation System - Atleast we should demand a scientific and doable system/authority for evaluating every child's progress followed by necessary steps tp help the child in boosting his learning capacity to recah the required levels. Volunteers can help teh schools in working with such kids that needs help. A group of 4 - 5 students with 1 volunteer would certainly help the process of helping children to learn.

6. School participation in community Works - Volunteers can help schools participate in community work like Parks Clean Up, Save Energy campaigns, Safe Driving, No to smoking etc. 

7. Intensive Reading and Writing Camps -  Start programs/institute that offers intensive programs for children to improve their reading and writing abilities. These can be held during Holidays specially in summer.

These are some of my thoughts and hope that Praja community would consider this for a definite community project.

 These are based on the personal experiences from a activist who is working on one such project. Such an effort is in progress in Bangalore ( at a Muslim Orphanage school). It will take 2-3 years to see the desire results. There has been success in facility wise and working on academics part.



gowriv's picture

Thank you!

Thanks for all your comments...It's nice to see such a high level of both energy and thoughtfulness in a group of people.

 Syed, I was very interested to read your list of ways the public can be involved in government schools.  I agree that better facilities and teaching materials are key and something local citizens can easily contribute.  In fact, I believe many schools in Bangalore already receive such support and the number could be increased.

 And teacher recognition -- what a great idea!  A big problem in schools is that teachers think student testing means they are being tested too.  So they try to fudge results to make themselves look better.  A strong method for understanding what teachers are doing well and recognizing them for it would bring a lot of enthusiasm to schools.  I'd be interested to hear more thoughts on this.

 About textbooks, I believe that right now schools are expected to provide free textbooks to students.  I've never heard anyone complain that this doesn't happen, though I'm sure there are plenty of gaps and delays.  In my opinion teaching-learning materials and good teaching are more important that textbooks, which are an invitation for a teacher to read out loud and ask her students to memorize blindly whatever she reads.

Karnataka is the only state in India that has instituted a universal annual evaluation system for its government school students (your next point).  It is called KSQAO.  It is of course flawed at the implementation stage, but I think citizens could play a role in ensuring that this system is improved rather than reinventing the wheel.  Akshara and the Azim Premji Foundation have both done a lot of work on evaluations that you might be interested in.

 School participation in community works -- a good idea though it would probably be difficult to implement across all schools unless you had a volunteer in every school in the city.

Summer camps are also a good idea although it can be hard sometimes to get kids to attend (many government school kids go to their villages in the summer holidays).  Actually the government tried to run its own summer camp programme this year.  I don't know how successful it was.  I have not (not surprisingly) seen any evaluation report on it.  What if next year citizen volunteers were attached to summer camps to ensure they actually run?

Thanks again,






gowriv's picture


An addendum -- if you are interested in volunteering in a school as part of Akshara's pilot citizens' initiative, please send me an email at  I will make sure you get the information you need and in return I will hope for lots of feedback on how we can improve this in future!


silkboard's picture

please try cross-posting here

Gowri, it will be nice if you can cross-post your education blogs here as well. Together it only gets better. The gyan and experience that you and your associates have will make more people aware, and could get more folks interested towards your cause. We can set you up with a separate Akshara page here, so that one can opt to see just Akshara blogs/reports by going to Akshara page.

We want Praja to be the information exchange for caring and concerned citizens, whatever be their cause. There will absolutely never be any attempt to eclipse Akshara or any fine organizations by way of branding or whatever.

ssheragu's picture

Govt. Schools

Regarding govt. schools I have a suggestion

It is quite true and well known that the Karnataka Govt. spends Rs 500 crores on Govt. schools; but the condition of Govt. schools is pathetic.

What we can do is that under RTI, we can ask how much money is spent on which school and in what way? that will set right things to a large extent

Srinath Heragu

City.Zen's picture

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan of the Govt.

Much has been said of the Govt. schools in Bangalore. Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar's latest book, "Escape From The Benevolent Zookeepers," a collection of his writings in his column, Swaminomics in TOI has 5 articles on universal education. He reveals that the problems of ineffective teaching in schools is the same all over the world. He says that mere literacy can be achived in months. The aim of completing six to eight years in primary school (as planned by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan launched in 2001) is to gain skills that translate into higher wages and less poverty. But, while literacy improves income significantly, additional years of schooling contribute very little extra. Why? Because even in many countries with near-universal education, students cannot read simple texts or do simple sums. They may have completed school, but they are functionally illiterate. Surveys in seven Latin American countries reveal functional illiteracy of 40% in Chile,... 43% for nine-year-olds in the USA. Billions spent on more teacher training, textbooks and learning materials have achieved almost nothing. Research suggests that if children cannot read after 2-3 years of education, they probably never will. They may be promoted regularly and complete school, but they will be functionally illiterate. Lesson: Indian education must focus above all on early reading skills. If that is not achieved, all subsequent schooling is a waste. Why are schools so weak in teaching poor children to read? Because ( Aiyar quotes here Ernesto Schiefelbein, former Education Minister of Chile and a renowned educator) better-off children typically enter school with a vocabulary of 2,000 to 4,000 words and have often started reading already at home. But poor children typically have a vocabulary of only 600 words and have never read at home. Now, the skills needed to teach a child with a 600-word vocabulary are totally different from those needed to teach a child with a 3,000-word vocabulary. Most teachers lack the special skills (or time, or patience) needed for teaching poor children. Quality improvement schemes tend to focus on teacher training for higher levels of learning. In itself, this is a good thing, but it tends to neglect the basic skill of teaching children with a very small vocabulary and little support at home from illiterate parents. So, spending billions on supposed quality improvement might not improve learning outcomes: few poorer children will reap much benefit. Are things better in India (or even in Bangalore) than in Latin America? Alas, no. They are probably worse. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan may, by spending thousands of crores of rupees, get most children into school. It may finance better textbooks, teaching materials, and teacher training. But will it ensure that poor children can read within their first two or three years in school? If not, little will be achieved by ensuring that all children complete school. Poorer children will emerge functionally illiterate after wasting eight years in school. One of the best-known NGOs, Pratham, has conducted surveys and says that half the children aged 6 to 14 years cannot read simple sentences. In rural India, about 85 per cent of students in Class VI can read only at the level of Class II to III. However, Pratham has devised an accelerated reading course, which it claims has worked well in the field. With focused effort, illiterates can be taught to read within three months. Children who can barely read the alphabet have been enabled to read entire paragraphs within two or three weeks. Pratham has collaborated with the Maharashtra government to catalyse reading in schools... Maharashtra is scaling up the reading programme to cover the whole State.... Development history is full of stories of islands of success that could not be scaled up nationally. That is the challenge we face today. (Editors: Almost all of the above is copyrighted by TOI. Please examine whether to retain or when to delete this)
City Zen
santsub's picture

Teach India drive from TOI - did they take a cue from here :) -

Guys I just read this on TOI and was immediately thinking - wow this was a topic on Praja and TOI has  made it national. UNfortunately Bangalore is not a part of this campaign in the first phase of their effort. Hope we can make a difference.

TOI Report Below -------------------------------------------------------------------
This one came straight from our heart. And the response has been truly heart-warming.

On the day The Times of India launched the Teach India campaign to educate underprivileged children, the front page said that the aim of this effort is to set up India's largest classroom, whose walls are the four corners of the country.

From the number of applications received in less than three days, it is evident that our hopes were not misplaced.

The idea of Teach India has struck an instant chord, with more than 10,000 people signing up to pledge at least two hours a week to teach a child in their neighbourhood, mostly for weekend sessions. This army of volunteers is a multi-lingual, multi-talented one drawn from diverse streams - doctors, lawyers, company executives, educationists, actors, businessmen, housewives, writers, artists, retired folk, government employees and, most hearteningly, college students.

 Rest is here :)



kbsyed61's picture

Reading and Comprehension is the key !


From my first reading the fundemental issue w.r.t learning seems to be educationist/teachers/education ministries are not been able to grasp the key elements that are required for children's education. No amount of spending and lavishness would do any miarcles. For children to progress/continue their studies, key is the ability to read and comprehend the subjects. Therefore in the eraly years 1st standard to 3rd standard, the focus should be to teach them the art of reading and writing.Once they learn how to read and write well, learning other subjects and grades would come naturally. Also they would enjoy learning and by 5th and 6th grade they would be on their own to complete their homeowrks/assignments and prepare for tests/exams.If we even attains marginal success in imparting these skills, you will see a world of difference in the educational improvement.

Grass root effort can be in mobilizing the volunteers to achieve this basic objective would go a long way in the larger objective of improving the schooling system.


tsubba's picture

thanks gowri

thanks gowri. balanced presentation. my vote is for system in which science, maths and english are in english social studies and kannada are in kannada fast changing universal ideas in english. local ideas and civilization ideas in local languages. i only insist that this be universal within the state. let rural/kannada/low income crowd benefit from science. let rban/english/high income crowd benefit from kannada. i dream of the next gnyaanapeeTha award winner in KA to be from Bishop Cottons, bangalore. and the next fields medal winner from basavana bagewadi. why not?
tsubba's picture

paging sri

help understand this... In fact, expenditure on general education as a percentage of the total expenditure in the State has declined from 17 per cent in 2000-01 to around 13 per cent in 2007-08. Although the Medium Term Fiscal Plan for 2007-11 says that the State was committed to earmarking substantial outlays under both revenue and capital heads of high priority development expenditure, revenue expenditure alone accounted for around 98 per cent of the total expenditure on general education. While the nominal expenditure showed a continued trend of increase over the years, expenditure in real terms showed an actual decline initially between 2000-01 and 2002-03. The nominal expenditure on education was Rs. 3,355.69 crore (17.07 per cent) in 2000-2001 and Rs. 6,428.10 crore (12.90 per cent) in 2007-08, according to a document prepared by the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, Bangalore. Nominal expenditure on education was 14.82 per cent in 2001-02, 12.09 per cent in 2002-03, 10.43 per cent in 2003-04, 11.73 per cent in 2004-05, 13.25 per cent in 2005-06 and 12.28 per cent in 2006-07, the document noted.
s_yajaman's picture

Paging Tarle

In a nutshell it means that education is getting lower priority (% of spending)

revenue expenditure means things like salaries.  this is in contrast to capital expenditure - new schools, adding buildings and classrooms, etc. This may not be a completely bad thing in itself.  E.g. if existing schools are adding teachers, it is a very good thing (as long as teachers don't just turn up on salary day).  But 98% is very high. 

Nominal expenditure is up - means at todays prices.  So if cost of things is up (salaries, books, chalk,etc), the increased spending is being taken up to a large extent by higher costs.  Real expenditure would be lower (real expenditure tries to estimate actual physical growth - more teachers, more schools, etc etc).

I do not know how much we're spending as a % of SDP.  That should ideally be 6-8% of SDP. 

Hope this helps.




Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

murali772's picture

one cheer for Mayawati

On July 1, 86 lakh children in class I and II began to learn English in government schools of Uttar Pradesh. It fulfilled a longstanding demand of parents who believe that they have lost two generations to Hindi chauvinists. They know that a child who learns English by age 10 has a natural advantage for the rest of its life. Shortage of English speakers is one reason why software companies, call centres, export oriented industry has been slow in coming to UP and the caricature of the ‘bhaiya' persists. For more, click on

The article further adds:
Mayawati used to be a teacher. So, she will appreciate this public-private partnership. Teachers' unions will oppose her, of course. She will be scared of losing lakhs of teachers' votes, but she must remember that she will gain crores of votes of grateful parents. I'm convinced that more and more sensible policies will come from Dalit/OBC leaders who have fewer vested interests to protect (like teachers' unions).

Likewise, it will require people like her to take on the well-entrenched vested interests in the other areas too. For more on that, read

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
tsubba's picture

thanks sri

thanks sri. comment guidelines

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