Ham: For radio enthusiasts

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Where all communication fails, amateur radios come to the rescue of people, says Ambarish Nag Biswas, secretary and founder of the West Bengal Radio Club. Amateur radio is a term for amateur radio. And the club is a collective of amateur radio operators. It has more than 200 members: students, housewives, lawyers, teachers, doctors, computer scientists… The late Rajiv Gandhi was a great enthusiast. Biswas has also been for more than 26 years. “It’s a global pastime,” said the 49-year-old. “Sitting here, I can talk to people in Germany, America, Japan, everywhere,” he adds.

Biswas’ home in Sodepur, on the outskirts of Calcutta, also serves as the club’s office. His daughter, Sraboni, walks in with a walkie-talkie in her hand. At 18, she is one of the youngest amateur radio operators in India. Father and daughter wear navy collared T-shirts with the word HAM and the club logo embroidered on the pocket. On a coffee table, there are two rectangular pieces that look like car radios. Said Sraboni, “These are two radios – one of them is a very high frequency radio and can be used to communicate 100 to 120 kilometers. The other is a high frequency radio; it can be used to communicate around the world. The walkie-talkie she is holding, she says, does not work beyond a range of 10 kilometers.

The central government telecommunications ministry conducts exams to license and certify people as amateur radio operators. A unique “call sign” is assigned so that they can transmit and access radio signals of a particular frequency range – something that only those belonging to specialist groups such as the military, military, etc. air, navy, secret service and police could once do. time. Biswas is a licensed amateur radio operator and his call sign is VU2JFA. “The call sign for all Indians starts with VU,” he explains.

Being an amateur radio operator is not about indulging in a personal whim, as Biswas points out. Over the years, he and his team have used radio to track down missing people, especially at giant annual mass gatherings such as the Gangasagar Mela in West Bengal. So far, they have reunited 2,500 people with their families. They are also involved in disaster management and intervene when earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis and other natural disasters cause communication failures and breakdowns of telephones, mobile networks, and the Internet. Said Biswas, “We have operated during cyclones such as Aila, Phailin and Hudhud; the earthquakes in Gujarat in 2001 and Nepal in 2015; and also during the 2013 floods in Uttarakhand.

Biswas’ interest in amateur radio was sparked by a Hollywood film almost 27 years ago. He no longer remembers the name but was intrigued by the communication device used by the characters. Soon after, he heard about amateur radio operators and the half-dozen operating radio clubs in Bengal. He said, “When I went to Gangasagar Mela for the first time, I noticed that the sound system was not very efficient. I wondered what happens to those who are lost, to those who are too far away to hear the announcement. He suggested that the mela authorities set up radio stations all around to track the missing people. Since then, every year, Biswas and his team provide emergency communications and support administration during Gangasagar Mela. “From 300, the annual number of missing people has fallen to single digits,” he said.

Asked about the range of the amateur radio signal, Biswas looks amused and says, “Where your mobile network can’t. We can also sit here and talk to someone in space. In fact, it is a basic qualification for an astronaut – he or she must be an amateur radio operator. “

It seems that each geography has a distinctive code. “If I’m in another country, I operate an amateur radio and say ‘sic u sic u sic u. It’s VU2JFA ‘, they will instantly understand that it is an Indian in their country and respond. He continues: “I don’t know all the languages ​​in the world but I can still communicate with people from different parts of the world using the radio… We radio amateurs share a link. It’s not like social media friends. Here there are no false identities because each operator is licensed.

According to Biswas, the government does not license a radio operator to help people with disaster management or to bring people together. “Most of these licensed radio operators only do radio related research or technical work through these radios. We are the only club in the country or even in the world to use radio amateurs for different purposes. ”

During Fani – the cyclone that destroyed Odisha earlier this year – a request was made to set up an amateur radio system to establish communication as there was no network or electricity. “The families of tourists stranded in Puri called us. We would call our stations in Bhubaneswar and Puri and identify their whereabouts. The club also helps people abandoned in hospitals. These include an elderly woman who was admitted to a public hospital a year ago by her son under a fictitious name and address; a 25-year-old mentally ill woman from Assam found in Diamond Harbor; a 25 year old resident of Vaishali, Bihar, found in Howrah; a tribal woman found in Calcutta who returned to her hometown Araju in Jharkhand after a decade.

And in the 2018 panchayat elections, the Election Commission asked the club to help with election-related communication in 31 areas of West Bengal where there was no mobile network coverage.

Mountaineers also use amateur radios. Biswas says he has done simulation exercises with the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy, Post Guard and National Disaster Response Force.

Part of the business of being an Amateur Radio Operator is also that you learn how to put together the tools you need for your job, from assembling a radio to creating the antennas that will support it. Biswas created the Indian Academy of Communication and Disaster Management which regularly organizes workshops on antenna fabrication, digital communication, radio interface with a mobile phone, etc. It also trains people for three months before they take the government exam for licensing.

The word “ham” is said to have been the name of the first wireless stations operated by some Harvard Radio Club enthusiasts in 1908. Their names were Albert S. Hyman, Bob Almy, and Poogie Murray. They called their station Hyman-Almy-Murray. Biswas says, “There are a lot of stories related to it. But for us, ham still represents aid to humanity.


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