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INDIA: FOSS campaigners upbeat about politicians stand on software

Mar 16, 2009, 14:31 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Frederick Noronha)

[ Thanks to Frederick Noronha for this link. ]

MARCH 14, 2009: Indian prime minister-in-waiting and Opposition leader Lal Krishna Advani of the BJP has come out with a stand that is seen to strongly favour Free Software and Open Source, released here today. While politicians are known to be lavish with pre-poll promises, Open Source campaigners were upbeat over the development.

New Delhi goes to the polls for its national parliamentary elections within weeks.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, a right-wing influential party that rule India between 1998 to 2004, included "key sections of the FOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) Manifesto" in its IT vision that was released Saturday, March 14, 2009, Venkatesh Hariharan of Red Hat India and a Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FOSS) lobbyist at the policy level announced.

The BJP is Centre-Right in nature, and the party advocates conservative social policies, self-reliance, an emphasis on economic growth, with an emphasis on "nationalism" and a strong military and defence policy.

Hariharan pointed to the just-released 40-page "vision document" and said the man who is seen to have chances to become India's next prime minister had "strongly articulated" major demands from the FOSS world -- on FOSS in education, on open standards, on encouraging freely shareable FOSS based knowledge and repositories like Wikipedia in Indian languages.

India's small but active FOSS campaigners have been pushing politicians and governments to take stance in favour of Free Software, Open Source and related issues.

In what it called a 'FOSS Manifesto', at a site called public-software.in, the campaigners called on Indian political parties "to make FOSS usage and promotion a central part of the IT, e-government and education plans in their election manifestos."

They argued that FOSS "is software which is liberally licensed to grant the right of users to study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code. The open, inclusive and participatory nature of FOSS is a natural fit for the vibrant traditions of Indian democracy and its emphasis on sharing knowledge."

To bolster their case, they said that since "software is the foundation of the digital economy," India's IT infrastructure should be built on FOSS and "not on closed, proprietary software systems that enforce restrictive licenses, limit the freedom of users and encourage monopolistic behaviour."

In the recent past, parties on the Left have also supported such FOSS initiatives. The CPI(M) government in Kerala is known for its computer education policy based on Free Software, while FOSS campaigners have also sought to build links between the Left and their campaigns on ideological grounds.

"The Left, specially the Communist Party of India (Marxists), has also been supportive in taking stands against software patents in India, and in favour of open standards," Hariharan told this correspondent.

"Of the major parties, only the (currently ruling) Congress is left to take a stand," he argued.

In a blog post, Hariharan commented, "As a long time supporter of free and open source software, I am delighted to see a major Indian political party [the BJP] endorse [the FOSS Manifesto]. However, I am even more delighted to see that this endorsement is rooted in a comprehensive vision for India's development."

The BJP's press release put out today is at: L.K. Advani releases BJP's IT Vision Document

The FOSS Manifesto, which campaigners are placing before politicians prior to India's upcoming crucial parliamentary elections, is at: FOSS Manifesto

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