As I type out these words, I'm sitting in Trivandrum, a few minutes' drive away from Kerala's democractic power centre - the AKG centre. And if I read the weather right, everything is in place for Free Software to take educational and government institutions by storm. But this wind of changes wasn't a communist movement or empty promises in the wake of RMS' visit. Months before RMS visited or even the current government came to power, there were undercurrents in the administration towards using Linux (*sic*). Now, they might have been invisible to a lot of the readers of The New York Times, but I've certainly talked about it quite a few months back.
As you can see from the date of the Kairali Linux project, that it pre-dates the current communist government. The good news is actually, that the work done over the past year and a half is actually going into use, even though the power centres have shifted during the last election. The official, face of the whole exercise is CDIT's Open Source Technology Team and they seem like a sensible lot. The following excerpt is from their website :-
As a responsible Government organization, C-DIT does not wish to involve in tirades against any particular company nor wish to practice free software like a cult.
Take that, you commie blaming NYT news reporters, confusing a good decision with political opposition to big business. And there's yet a personal angle to it too - in November, I had in my hands a pair of installation CDs. Look at the pretty shrink wrapped software with a big GPL disclaimer on the back panel, price tagged 99 INR.
It also came with a manual titled (translated) - Swathanthra Software and GNU/Linux in malayalam by the Kerala Bhasha Institute and C-DIT. The document is in pretty good detail, explaining how to do simple wordprocessing to playing music or setting up dialup.
This is all on top of the educational reforms removing product specific tutorials from the syllabus and making them electives. Yes, they teach about Word Processors not Microsoft Word. Like somebody recently said, it is about the same as Home Appliance science - but with Oo.org, it at least doesn't come with an extra license fee per copy. Anyway, it's not like there's any engineering college here that doesn't use linux as part of the course curriculum.
I'm free -- and freedom tastes of reality.
-- The Who