I am happy. Not over-the-moon happy, at least not yet.
Earlier last month, someone on the ILUGC mailing list posted news about a government tender floated on behalf of the Supreme court of India, inviting authorized vendors to supply quotes for …get this — “supply and installation of Apple Laptops for Supreme Court of India”.
Yes, that’s right, the judges at the SC apparently are Mac fanbois and think they have the right to spend public funds on eye candy laptops even when there exist Indian laptop manufactures who are capable of providing similar or even better hardware, at lower prices, to satisfy any possible requirement that an SC official might need a laptop for.
That wasn’t all though. The tender further required that the said laptops come preloaded with Microsoft Windows XP !
Now, I don’t have anything against people buying Macs or using Windows. If buying good looking expensive toys loaded with junk is your thing, surely, go right ahead and splurge, but please don’t dig into my tax money when you are doing it. Especially not when there are more affordable, open and altogether immensely more appropriate options available.
So, as expected, there was outrage expressed, on mailing lists, blogs and a petition campaign.
As this happened, I wondered what might have led to the tender ? Did the people at the National Informatics Centre, the guys responsible for advising the government on all things IT, really believe that the ‘Honorable Me Lords’ work demanded a Mac ? …or was it something else ? Knowing a bit about how the Great Indian bureaucracy works, I came up with the following possibilities:
a. Some high up babu (or his/her favorite son/daughter/nephew/niece) knew that Macs look cool. So, carrying a mac to work, especially in front of visiting firang babus would add to their coolness. So, the babu express this desire to the presiding NIC representative whose professional cadre is a class or two lower than the babu. Wanting the impress, the submissive NIC representative creates the tender, pushes the file and the tender gets published without so much as a review by any higher ups at the NIC, because, well, you know, they are busy doing other more important IT things.
b. Some high up SC babu decides it is time that the SC gets onto this IT thing. Especially considering that the government has just pushed for a larger IT initiative and all the different bureaucracies involved have been allocated the budget. So, the babu thinks — I have this much money, and these many people, how do I spend it without having to bother what I am spending on as long as it looks IT enough ? I know, I’ll buy laptops (laptops are IT things right ?) and lets spend all our budget on that. Our presiding NIC representative should know what’s the most expensive laptop around …
c. …and this, unfortunately, is probably the most likely. Our presiding NIC representative’s brother-in-law’s-son’s-wife has a cousin who recently became an authorized Apple vendor and is looking to get his foot into some sweet government deals.
d. …the least likely though, is that, the computing needs of the ‘Honorable, Me Lords’ were evaluated and matched against the available platforms that satisfy these needs and Macs were eventually found to be the best choice.
So, returning back, why am I happy ? Well, it seems like democracy works in India. I read today that the petition filed has reached the hands of people important enough to influence the outcome:
As far as I can tell, none of the organizations protesting the tender have any thing to directly gain by doing so.
Sure, this is in no way a win. Sure, in all likely hood, ‘Me Lords’ will get their ‘Honorable’ hands on their Macs but the fact that there are people with a social conscience in our IT sector who are willing to take the effort to make their discontent known, is good enough to begin with.
Things are changing and that’s what I am happy about.