Posts Tagged ‘India’

cycling in Mumbai

June 23, 2011

I used to commute daily to my office near Anushakti Nagar from my home, TIFR colony at Navy Nagar, Colaba, by local train using the harbour line (from CST to Mankhurd and return). This happened for the last 15 years. One day, on May 2nd 2011, I went to a cycle shop and purchased a hybrid citi cycle (Trek 7100). From that day till today, except when I wasn’t in the city, commuting daily to my office. The track is about 26km or 23km depending on which route I take. I am covering this distance within 1:15min with an average speed of 19km/hour without much effort.

Cycling track TIFR colaba to Homi Bhabha Centre Mankhurd

Cycling track TIFR colaba to Homi Bhabha Centre Mankhurd

The picture is one of the routes I use for my commute.

What I realised from this experience is that Mumbai is a flat city. The change in altitude in my entire stretch of 26km is only 60meters. This makes the city an eminent place to commute by cycles. I did it in the hottest month of May, and also during the rains. Cycling in the rains is certainly less tiring than the humid and hot weather of Mumbai. Having tested my endurance in both the hottest and wettest weathers, I am hoping to continue to the rest of my life cycling.

I will write once in a while my experiences.  Happy cycling!

I met a person who is in a jail

February 18, 2011

I  met a person who went to jail.  Do you know any one who is serving a term in a jail?

So, it seems!  I announce that I enjoy the distinction of meeting a person who is in a jail.  I met a person face-to-face who is allegedly one of the top defaulters of public office in India.  I shook hands (or probably I may have done a namaskaar with folded hands, don’t remember now) with a person who sold a portion of natural light illegally (electromagnetic spectrum), technically called 2G spectrum (so that citizens do not know that Govt. claims the authority to sell licenses to use a portion of nature.)  So, I spoke to someone who is in jail for twenty minutes.

Aren’t you curious to know why did I meet him, what did I speak to him about?  When did that meeting take place?  And at the end of course, who was the person that I feel so great having met? Read my earlier post on this blog. And the report of the person in Tihar Jail here.

I am actually lying, since I know several people intimately who have been to jail, such as my grandfather and grandmother who were freedom fighters.  I not only met, but hosted (made tea, served water) many distinguished freedom fighters (all of them friends of my grandfather) in my house, some of them were put in jail by Indira Gandhi during emergency. But, they went to jail to end corruption, but this Raja is different.

What makes me really sick is when I realise what Governments do today, all over the world:  Instead of spreading and supporting the means of taking  the great inventions of scientists and engineers, they control their inventions.  The deliver them in bits and pieces.  half G, 1G, 2G, 2 and a half G, 3G, 3G+, 4G …   The issue of how an abundantly available component of nature, namely light, is controlled by these “Mafia rajas”  of today, to give each one of us the feeling that they are indeed scarce commodities.  It is sad to know how Government is behaving like a business house, and listens to them, gives them red carpet welcome, and ignores all voices of those who want to claim the nature back to people.

Kozhikode Declaration: National Conference on Free Software and Education

September 12, 2010

This is a Draft Declaration

We request all those who read this page to suggest any changes before Monday 13th September 2010, so that the declaration can be released sooner than later.   The draft is uploaded on the wiki page.

The text is pasted here for broad dissemination.

The Role of ICT and Education in Social Inclusion

Information & Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the most powerful technologies ever developed by humankind. It has drastically changed the way we do things, the way we communicate and even the way we think. Education is one of the spheres of human activity that is being strongly influenced by ICT. While the teaching of ICT has been incorporated at the school-level, ICT itself is being used in the classroom and outside for teaching and learning more effectively. However, access to ICT is not universal due to various reasons, including obscurity and the high cost of proprietary software.

Education is a basic requirement for a comfortable life in today’s society. In view of this, some countries, including India, have made it a fundamental right. This is certainly a move in the right direction. Education in ICT and ICT-enabled education are also becoming wide-spread. Part of the reason for this is the rapid decline in the cost of hardware. At the same time, the high cost of software is acting as a hurdle for further progress. Another factor that prevents more wide-spread use of ICT is the fact that the interface is not available in many languages, which bothers a lot of people.

Obscurity stops people and especially students to learn how things work, software in particular. The right to use, know, change and share technical knowledge about modern artefacts is an essential human right in knowledge societies.

Why is Software Freedom a necessity and not a choice?

Proprietary software does not allow community participation in shaping the ICT to be used for education, and is not suitable for education since their solutions treat students as consumers. Free software community (sometimes called free and open source software community) on the other hand produced GNU/Linux operating system and a comprehensive stack of collaborative workspaces that enable students during the last 25 years. Most of the free software workspaces are made accessible for speakers of all languages of the world, including physically challenged students. The software freedom granted to the people (1. to use the software for any purpose; 2. to study how it works; 3. to modify it and 4. to distribute the modified software) is unquestionably the core source of the free software revolution that is being witnessed. Any software that grants these four freedoms is called Free Software. These freedoms are essential for students to learn how things work, and to share their experience, knowledge and collaborate with others without legal encumbrances.

The software freedom makes it eminently suitable for any purpose, especially for education. The software used in education has to be freely available and accessible to all because education has to be universal. Moreover, the software has to be available in the language used by the community in that part of the world, however small the community may be. This is normally not possible with proprietary software because some communities could be too small to satisfy the commercial interests of the company.

But the situation is different with Free Software. Since the source code is available for study and modification by anyone, students of computer science and software engineering are able to see code written by master programmers and learn from them, just as students of literature learn from works of great writers, or students of art or cinema learn from the works of great artists and movie makers. This is obviously not possible with proprietary software.

Any community that has people with reasonable software skills can customise the interface to show the menu and other items in their own language. They can also create fonts for the language if they are not available. And they can localise applications to suit their culture and environment.

Finally, the students who have computers in their homes can use the same software they use in their educational institutions without either breaking the law and using illegal software, or spending a lot of money to buy the same software.

Thus, Free Software is undeniably the most ideal for use in all educational institutions at all levels; for primary, secondary or higher education. Proprietary software keeps people divided and helpless, while Free Software empowers them. Free software nurtures the much needed creativity by encouraging us to critical thinking and reasoning while proprietary software forces us to consume what they pack.

It is important for the graduating students to become entrepreneurs or join the various agencies for employment. Considering this requirement it is essential that the syllabus in educational institutions focuses on skills and does not include any specific branded applications. Therefore, the syllabus should be neutral and not mention any particular brand.

Just as the software requires to be free, it is essential that learning and teaching resources including documentation, books, journals, and other media should be released with a license (such as Creative Commons by Share Alike) which grants similar freedoms for other resources. All these resources must also be encoded in an open standard so that the exchanged documents are decodable in all platforms ensuring interoperability.

Therefore

considering all the reasons mentioned above, we, the undersigned, call on all educational institutions, policy makers, students and teachers in all corners of the world to discard all proprietary software and use exclusively Free Software.

No offline option to seek interview to get US Visa from India

October 17, 2009

This is an update on my open letter sent to the Ambassador/Consulate of USA in India, and the VFS office complaining that their site is not interoperable and does not work with Mozilla Firefox. I received no reply for two weeks, then I sent another reminder email, to which they replied saying: “There is no other alternative.”  Considering this I reiterate my protest and will not honour any invitation from USA till they commit to rectify and make it interoperable so that free software users are not forced to use proprietary software.

Meanwhile, I reactivated my application to try again and discovered that the site does not work with Mozilla Firefox but manages to work with Konqueror.  The fields in the application however are misaligned in most places.  It is difficult to say without further investigation whether this is due to bad coding on the server side or on the browser side.  I could not test it through the process since no date before 21st of October 2009 is possible even under emergency category, therefore I gave up.

Free software users are increasing in number all over the world.  Unless such roadblocks are cleared we cannot build a greener digital environment. Fight for freedom even if it is expensive!

Painful to see the man made devastations

October 9, 2009

The recent heavy rains in the Indian subcontinent caused heavy damage to human habitat as well as to crops. On the one hand it may appear like a natural calamity, but the truth which is now well known to most experts is due to the shallow rivers. Reckless damage to the forests leading to soil erosion which caused this is so well known and is repeated by one and all. But are we taking any corrective action? I am wondering what we can do to prevent the recurrence. Helplessness and pain is what we seem to be left with. It is a case of a known diagnosis but incurable disease.

FOSSCOMM: Free and Open Source COMMunity in India

July 12, 2009

FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) activists are getting together to promote the awareness, influence Govt policy, defend the software freedom, bring in changes in IT education curriculum,  work towards free information infrastructure.  Read the principles that brought together several groups into action.

The network is taking shape at http://fosscomm.in. One of the first tasks the network will be working is to get the open standards policy document for eGovernance in India approved without yielding to those groups who promote the interests of proprietary software groups (like NASSCOM, MAIT, who are influencing the Indian Govt to make room for RAND and multiple standards).  Currently, the apex committee does not contain members who represent the FOSS community.  Therefore one of the immediate objectives of the new network of FOSS advocates is to request the Govt to include FOSS representatives in the apex body.

Watch out how India is developing its ICT policy?

April 27, 2008

The MHRD of India is in the process of drafting a national policy on ICT in school education. The ministry handed over the task to an young global and private organization Gesci, and Gesci involves CSDMS, an NGO, to initiate a national consultation to draft the ICT policy for a country, INDIA, a democratic soverign, democratic, secular and socialist republic. And CSDMS’s activities to meet this objective are published on their website.

This raises several questions in the minds of people who are otherwise very actively doing work in the area of ICT for education, and are not involved and informed. Should India need the help of Gesci and CSDMS for framing the ICT policy for the school education? Is Indian’s policy makers not sufficiently informed or lack experiene and ability? Can the Indian agencies, policy makers and citizens not competent to read from the various ICT policies published at various places and draw the policy?

All the consultative meetings that took place indicate the presence of substantial number of private and proprietary agencies who are known to have nothing other than profit as their motive sitting and discussing ICT policy of the country. The question naturally arises, who is funding this process? Who is funding CSDMS? Who is paying the expenditure to the five star hotels where all these meetings were held? Why were such meetings not held say in an IIT, IIM, University or a school where facilities and enough brain power exists in matters concerning ICT policy for school education?

The entire process is questionable. And the drafts that are generated out of this process are marked “Draft version – (Highly confidential-not for ciruculation)”. When I mentioned this, I was told that this is only a draft and not final yet, and it will be ciruclated widely when it is final. What is the point of circulating when the document is final. We need people’s participation in the process from the early stage, so that all the stakeholders participate. People are required not to recieve the final product, but should be involved in the very process of producing the product, if we are a democratic country. Interesting to note is the point that the Government gave priority to the private companies to be part of their confidential circle and not the people of the country.

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