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Monthly Archive for August, 2010

A campaign for no UID – Till complete transparency, accountability and people’s participation

21st August 2010

Dear Friend,

Since May 2009, the UID project is under implementation. Even though any legislation sanctioning it is yet to be passed in parliament, the UID authority is functioning. Rs.19,500 million have been allocated to the project. In addition to this allocation, the census expenditure has a budget of Rs. 30,230 million. The UIDAI plans to use the census data, to issue Aadhar numbers. The total project is estimated to cost Rs. 1500 billion. The budget for the Authority was passed with the GoI annual budget but without discussion on it or setting up of UIDAI.

The UID project envisages recording ten finger prints and iris scan of all people residing in India, allocating a unique number to each individual whose biometric data is captured, and storing it in a database with other basic information such as: name, parent’s name, date of birth, gender, and address. Clearly, the UID project will affect everyone residing in India. To ensure proper implementation it is important to carry out a detailed study of the project’s viability and feasibility. That the project has been launched without such a study is a matter of grave concern.

The authority presents the UID project to the public as a way to prevent leakages in the PDS and MGNREGS. If the project could achieve this, it would be a welcome solution, but even a cursory examination reveals several reasons why this objective seems impossible to achieve. Among these is the fact that many countries, after trying similar projects, have abandoned them because they were found to be incapable of achieving their projected objectives and posed high security risks. For example: in a study that was conducted by the London School of Economics on the UK Government’s National ID card scheme, it was found that it would not achieve the objective of preventing illegal immigration and further that such a central database would itself become a target for terrorists, The new elected UK government scrapped the project in June 2010.

The UID project also raises many questions concerning the abuse of personal data gathered in the process. The collection and logging of data, done in the manner proposed by the UIDAI, is in effect similar to “phone tapping”, a practice which can be abused by those overseeing it. The data collection itself is outsourced to private agencies. The linkages provided by UID to a person’s data that is collected for the UID to other databases, such as bank accounts or mobile phone companies have the potential for serious abuse. Despite these concerns, the UIDAI has already taken initiatives, such as collaborating with many multinational and Indian private companies for gathering data and setting up / maintaining the database.

This meeting is organised to discuss UID’s lack of a feasibility study, huge cost, legality and real danger of abuse. Hence, we invite you to come for a public discussion where people from many diverse groups will express their viewpoints on the subject on -

25th August 2010 from 10.00 am to 6.00 p.m.

at the Constitution Club Auditorium, Rafi Marg, New Delhi.

High-Tea and meeting with MPs: 4 pm to 6 pm.

This will be an interactive meeting in which, we hope you will be able to gain insight into this immense project, its costs and impacts. Please confirm your participation in the workshop at insafdelhi@gmail.com. This would help us make the necessary arrangements for your convenience.

In Solidarity -
Alternative Law Forum, Citizen Action Forum, Delhi Forum, PEACE, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) – Karnataka, Moving Republic, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), Slum Janandolana – Karnataka, The Center for Internet and Society (CIS) and many other organisations and concerned individuals.

Read UID appeal to MPs (pdf)

Mini DebConf India 2010: One of the best Free Software events we organised

Debian Community in India has been conducting developer meetings since 2005. (See Debian Developers Conference page for details about previous editions). In 2005 it was a dedicated debian event, but we organised annual gathering of debian people along with foss.in in the following years. We even had a Debian Project leader (Sam Hocevar) attending our event and taking about how Debian gives back to the community. This time we again had a dedicated Debian event.

Kartik Mistry in Lab

It all started with an email about conducting another dedicated debian developers gathering in DebianIndia group. The idea was well received and we started planning the event. It took a while to decide on a date for event, but rest is – as they say – history! Abhijth offered to host it in COEP and Vipul was ready to host it in PICT. We decided to choose COEP, because Free Software community was already active there.

We had a rocking event thanks to hard work of a lot of people. I have to mention Abhijit, Vipul, Kartik and Pavithran who were there from the beginning to end in making this event a success.

Abhijit’s enthusiasm and passion for Free Software has been very critical for making this event possible. He has been instrumental in creating a vibrant Free Software community in COEP.

Vipul was our official designer and he made sure we have good posters, tshirts, buttons, stickers … He is also working hard to bring up an active community in PICT.

Vipul and Kushal

Kartik has been always there for Debian and he was instrumental in making sure we are a debian proper event. Of course, he advocated me to be a DM :)

Pavithran has been our main spokesperson on irc and his interactions with debian community helped us in making sure debian people knew about this event. He was there from Friday to Monday and made sure we have everything in place.

There were lot many people who helped in many ways.

Students in Hall
Students in Hall

Naveen Kumar has been encouraging me in every step and interactions with him every day helped make this event much more organised. He was insistent on meticulous planning even to the minute details.

Kushal Das for having played and excellent role. I guess every one got a clear understanding of upstream and downstream. I found having upstream author, maintainer, mentor and sponsor at the same place was a wonderful way of demonstrating the relationship between different communities in the Free Software world. Back and forth between me and Kushal about copyright was the best part. Understanding about how copyright is fundamental to being part of the Free Software community.

Onkar Shinde for helping me with my intro talk and workshop. Being part of Ubuntu and Debian gave a different perspective and it was an important one.

Amit Karpe and PLUG team for joining with us for organising this event. It was good to see him contact us and offer help.

Sasikumar sir of CDAC for supporting this event and making sure we have a good interaction with BOSS team. Also for coming as a chief guest and delivering and inspiring inaugural address.

Shirish asking questions

Ashok Kumar and BOSS team for a healthy dialogue. Hopefully, we can work together more closely after this interaction.

Vikram Vincent for his energetic talk, he was talking to students in their own language.

Raghavendra for sharing his vision and experience.

I’m definitely going to miss many volunteers’ names because I have interacted directly with only small number of them and I don’t
remember most of their names :( I will attempt some names Swapnil, Avinash, Madhur, Aswin and many more.


Plus all the awesome participants, who stayed up till 10 pm on first day, came at 8 am on the second day and stayed till 8pm, that is quiet an effort. Again I will try some names, but I know it is incomplete, Arnav, Vivek, Sana, Priyanka, Sushant, Raghavendra …

Oh yeah Ninad Pundalik was helping with the workshop and his microblogs. Ramakrishna for his great insights. Shirish was keeping the sessions alive with lot of questions.

Karunakar helped answering some questions on input methods. His presence itself is great motivation for any FOSS event. We planned a session with him, but he had other plans on that day, which got canceled at the last moment, so he could come for the event.


Pravin Chavan from CoEP for arranging delivary of flex,buttons,and bunking whole day of college!for placing order of
tshirts in desperate times..

And of course our sponsors Media Magic Technologies and Nexenta systems. Hopefully Linux For You will cover this event in their coming edition.

An old Chinese saying says:

Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person how to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.

That has been my approach through out the workshop. I taught them where to find the information they need, gave hints when they needed it, shared my experiences. I started with asking them to search for ‘debian policy’ and keep it open in a tab. Then ‘debian new maintainer guide’ and lekhonee. It is important to remember the key words, we can always find the link with a search engine.

Next step was building the package from source. Instead of telling them what packages they need to install, I helped them find it out by themselves. First rule is always read README. It mentioned names of dependencies by their upstream/generic names. But they still had to find out debian package names because most of the time debian allows multiple versions of the same software, especially libraries to be present in the system. In those cases version of the library/software gets added to the package name. apt-cache search ‘upstream name’ lists packages with that name. But for building packages we need development libraries so they need to search ‘upstream name dev’. Once they found out package names for all the dependencies, every one built the package from source. I think it was Swapnil, who volunteered to show the students how to build a software from source.


Now we have all the required dependencies, so I asked them to improve README file with this information. Swapnil volunteered to improve README, but could not send to debian bug tracker on first day as we were getting late. On second day we were supposed to submit the bug report, but diff file was saved on Onkar’s laptop. So Raghvendra volunteered to do it again and others helped him with package names. This involved modifying code to improve it and creating patch. After we have the diff file ready, we submitted it to debian bug tracker.

Next step was getting them familiarised with wnpp. So I showed them and example ITP for burg and asked them to create the template for lekhonee-gnome in a text editor. They had to look in the AUTHORS file for upstream author. Then came the interesting part of license.

Kartik and Pavithran

Everyone said the license is GPLv3, but Kushal insisted it is GPLv2. So we had to double check. It turned out COPYING file mentioned license as GPLv3, Kushal copy-pasted it from somewhere :) But before we could report it as bug, he fixed it upstream! But still Vivek insisted it is LGPLv3 (I also made the same mistake in my ITP). So I told them to run ‘licensecheck -r *’. This command lists out license of individual source files in the archive. Some of them had to search for this and install devscripts. Output of this command showed, individual files had a mix or LGPLv3 and GPLv2+.

Once we listed all licenses of individual files, the next logical step was finding out license of the combination as a package. We looked up text of GPL and LGPL licences on the internet.

I asked them to look at the relevant sections of each license to understand what each of the licenses say about derivative works.

Section 2b of GPLv2 clarifies the license of the whole program should remain as GPLv2+

2b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License.

Section 4 of LGPL gives user a choice of license for combined works.

4. Combined Works.

You may convey a Combined Work under terms of your choice that, taken together, effectively do not restrict modification of the portions of the Library contained in the Combined Work and reverse engineering for debugging such modifications …

If we want to comply with GPL’s requirement of same license for derivative work and LGPL’s choice of any license, the result is GPLv2+. (See debian/copyright file for lekhonee-gnome. It makes debian package GPLv3+, may be I should keep it at GPLv2+, I will think about it when I prepare next update).


Next field in ITP is description, everyone just copied the description given by Kushal, without thinking much about it (I did it too when I filed ITP – but Kartik made me change it to something more useful to users). I told them to be creative and think about users when writing descriptions.

It is already a long post and I better post it now, Pavithran has been behind me for my blog :)

To conclude, we ran dh_make and modified template files to build the debian package! If I feel like writing more, I will write more about the event later.

Thanks to Pavithran for photos (Pavithran’s Gallery). More blogs and after event activities. You can also get involved! Come to #debian-in at irc://irc.oftc.net


PS1: I started with lekhonee-gnome, but it supports saving drafts only once. So reported a defect and moved to web interface.
PS2: As usual, I went into minor details, because they say “devil is in the details”. I hope sharing this experience in detail will help other people organising Free Software events.