Radio Hams to the Rescue in India

The Telegraph, Calcutta India
by: Karo Christine Kumar
June 7, 2009

Radio Hams to Rescue

Amitabh Bachchan is one. So is Rahul Gandhi. And we aren’t talking politics or films.

They are radio hams — amateur radio operators who facilitate a two-way communication using radio waves. Most radio hams have full-fledged jobs and ham only as a hobby. One needs to clear an examination and get a licence to become a radio ham.

During a disaster, radio hams can play a vital task in helping the administration with the relief operation by opening up a second line of communication.

Twelve radio hams are trying to reach out to Aila-afflicted areas of Bengal. “Radio hams have helped in disaster management after the Orissa cyclone and the Gujarat earthquake too,” said Arya Ghosh, a life member of the National Institute of Amateur Radio in Hyderabad.

After consultation with civil defence minister Srikumar Mukherjee, a number of ham stations have been set up since June 1 in North 24-Parganas (Barasat, Dhanekhali, Dulduli, Sandeshkhali, Jogesganj) and South 24-Parganas (Rangabelia) with relay stations at the institutes in Hyderabad, Calcutta, Belur and Kerala.

During disaster management, radio hams set up a station and keep track of inaccessible areas. “Communication can save many lives. Radio hams are in constant touch with the district administration and keep officials updated about the situation,” said Ghosh.

Another such group is the Indian Wave of Amateur Radio, whose members were able to establish communication with Aila victims in the ravaged villages of Gosaba, South 24-Parganas.

“A 19-member team reached Gosaba on May 26, a day after the cyclone. Their job is to determine which remote areas need drinking water, food and medical supervision. They inform the local people or the district administration through other ham stations in centrally located areas,” says Malay Mukherjee, a member of the group.