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We, the members of the Kolkata Chapter of the Indian GNU/Linux user group (http://www.ilug-cal.info ), Free Software Mancha of West Bengal (http://www.fsmwb.org ) and FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) activists across the country have been observing a marked shift towards the adoption of closed source proprietary software by the present Government of West Bengal. This is a retrograde trend that is bound to adversely affect earlier efforts towards adoption of FOSS in e-Governance (at least in some sectors), Education and other sectors by the previous Government and any concept of freedom that the people at large of the state may entertain from foreign interest laden proprietary closed source software.
A case in point is the happenings at WBPCB, where in-house personnel for FOSS deployment were appointed by the previous Government. The strategy permitted the best quality solutions at least TCO and with the benefits of maximum security and transparency. The recent tender at the WBPCB site (http://www.wbpcb.gov.in/cgi-bin/notice.cgi for purchasing closed source proprietary software ) reeks of corruption, kickbacks and nepotism by the new players. Of course it is ages away from vendor neutrality or open standards. Similar actions have happened in other departments as well.
Another is the fate of West Bengal Institute of Open Technology and Applications (WBIOTA). The present Government has virtually abandoned it after assuming office. The state of tenders being issued by the new players at the different education sites of the WB Government should also be highly suggestive.
Further the present Govt has signed MOUs with Microsoft according to which the company will invest in Bengal if the Government of West Bengal vetos anything apart from the use of Microsoft's cloud platform and technology for future e-governance projects. (Source: Business Standard ). We are extremely concerned about an e-governance policy influenced by proprietary software vendor like Microsoft, Oracle etc. . It took a lot of effort by many of us to convince sections of the the previous Government about the evils of proprietary software and finally they agreed to change their pro Microsoft stand and support use of free and open source software in e-governance projects to an extent (given the restrictions imposed by the Central Government). There are several examples of sustainable e-governance implementations like EMIS.
The technical superiority of free and open source software are proven . All Internet giants Amazon, Facebook, Google , Twitter and Yahoo uses free software to run their application and infrastructure. In Microsoft's own land the Obama administration is going for Free software as the means of delivering e-governance.
Government departments are known to be the largest consumer of software and a short-sighted policy of the kind is bound to have serious adverse effects beyond the wastage of tax payers money.
It is also never too late to make amends. The recent happenings in the state of Tamil Nadu, as per this report, should be suggestive of the same.