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Monday, June 30, 2003

Promoting Linux in Ludhiana
Naveen S. Garewal

A pirated copy of Windows Operating System is what runs most computers in a majority of homes as well as small and medium business establishments. A beginning has been made to break the hegemony of Microsoft by a small group that has taken upon itself the task of training the common man in the use and implementation of the Linux operating system. Sucharu, a non-profit NGO, aims at implementing Linux and software solutions.

Started in Ludhiana with the objective of penetrating the industrial hub, Sucharu aims at providing working knowledge of Linux to run an organisation or a commercial enterprise in a Sucharu (cleaner and efficient) manner. "Our objective is to help everyone run their computing needs in an effortless and beautiful manner by helping them understand how they can run their systems with a versatile software free of cost," says Charu Bhardwaj, the brain behind the project and an IT professional specialising in Unix and Oracle administration.

Run by nearly 10 IT professionals, who look after their own businesses and ventures, but get together on Sundays for the cause of Linux, this group comprises those with varied backgrounds ranging from diploma holders to M.Es and M.Techs under the banner of Sucharu. Originally conceived nearly a year ago by Bhardwaj, who is himself a computer trainer, Sucharu has so far held about 60 workshops involving individuals, institutions and enterprises.

So far Sucharu has trained nearly 300 persons, both individuals as well as representatives from various companies. There are dozens of companies in the city who have already migrated to Linux. Some of these companies include well-known names. A former Bata India employee, Bhardwaj quit the job to venture into the field of computers and started developing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. He found Linux the most suitable to the Indian environment as it costs nothing and so has stuck with Linux ever since. provide free of cost Linux training to the students and NGOs. It is our endeavour to help develop ERP software that runs in a Sucharu (cleaner and efficient) manner. The NGO undertakes training, implements software and provides services to non-commercial enterprises and individuals under general public licence scheme. But on the other hand, while the software is available free of cost to commercial enterprises under the same licence, they have to arrange for training, implementation and maintenance at their own cost which is very nominal as compared to the cost of other commercially available software," says Bhardwaj.

Linux is available under General Public Licence (GPL) scheme wherein anyone can use the operating system without worrying about piracy issue and without paying for it. But if he or she chooses to provide some software solutions based on the operating system, then he or she has to provide the developed software under the same general public license scheme to others, free of cost.

The operating system offers a complete set of software solutions such as word processors, spreadsheets, presentation, graphics, multimedia, database, Internet browser and network software solutions etc. are available for most of individuals’ and enterprises’. The look and feel of Linux graphical environment is similar to Windows and any novice Window user finds it easy to migrate to Linux operating system.

Manpreet Singh, a Sucharu volunteer and lecturer at the Guru Nanak Engineering College, says. "The main motto of Linux is to pass on information and knowledge to the coming generations as against locking the knowledge in commercially owned software. As things stand today, multinational companies have monopolised the software industry forcing poor countries like India to buy software at exorbitant prices. Linux serves as an alternative suiting the Indian environment."

Sucharu promotes the concept that when all requisite software is available free of cost, why use pirated software. Linux offers every thing to run a system, may it be an individual or small enterprise. "Not only will Linux help you save money, but it will also break the monopoly of multinationals and help the nation to save its precious foreign exchange," say Sucharu volunteers.

Sucharu even persuades IT professionals to sharpen their skills in Linux. Adopting Linux as your career or profession does not hamper the IT professionals’ commercial prospectus. Under General Public Licence, an IT professional is free to charge a consultation fee based on the services rendered. Though, every Linux user has to keep the social cause in mind.

Linux is gaining considerable popularity in the West with thousands of companies developing cheaper software solutions based on Linux.

Comprising of a dedicated team of volunteers, Sucharu organises workshops and training camps for those desirous of learning Linux on Sundays and other gazetted holidays. Since, Sucharu has established a niche for itself in the Linux world, Bhardwaj says Sucharu even tries to help IT professional specialising in Linux to secure a placement.

"Vidhika Mahajan, an M.Tech herself, who was till recently was working with Sucharu as a volunteer now proposes to extend the working of this NGO to Ambala, where she has relocated after marriage. Similarly, we are looking at volunteers who can help us promote Linux in different areas in the region," says Bhardwaj.