HAM Role In Tsunami Relief
In order to acknowledge the yeoman services rendered by various organisations and teams who have voluntarily engaged themselves in the relief operations, etc., in the Tsunami-affected areas, the Minister of Communications & Information Technology, Shri Dayanidhi Maran, has placed on record his appreciation of the exemplary work of National Institute of Amateur Radio (NIAR), Hyderabad in the Tsunami affected areas, particularly in the Islands of Andaman & Nicobar. Shri Maran, himself a HAM, released the Amateur Radio Acknowledgement Card (popularly called HAM Card) to be sent as a thanks giving letter to all the 36,000 Ham Operators worldwide who were in contact and were associated with the relief services after the Tsunami disaster, so as to make the world community know about Indian resources, technical skills and institutions, like NIAR, which provided support during natural disasters.
The Department of Information Technology (DIT), in the year 1983-84 (then it was Department of Electronics) with a view to create awareness about Amateur Radio, popularly known as HAM, its use both as a hobby and in emergency communications, established the National Institute of Amateur Radio. It is the infrastructure established at NIAR which came as a great help over the last 20 years whenever a major natural calamity occurred – be it Orissa Super Cyclone in the year 1999 or the Gujarat Earthquake 2001 or Amarnath Yatra disaster and Latur Earthquake – or for that matter recently, the Tsunami disaster. Under a project funded by DIT recently, NIAR has augmented its infrastructure with state-of-the-art communication system, and has set up 10 new centres to help in Disaster Management in coordination with Ministry of Home Affairs and the associated State units. These centres also aim at training a large number of interested persons to become licensed HAM Operators.
It would be interesting and coincidental to note that as part of the project, a 5 member Amateur (HAM) Radio Operators Team form NIAR were conducting expedition, after 17 years, in Port Blair from 3rd December 2004, just three weeks ahead when the Tsunami waves came in. The earthquake, preceding the Tsunami, hit this region when the members of the team were on their regular routine of contacting other amateur radio stations worldwide. The team immediately took photographs of Tsunami waves and informed NIAR and other Hams all over the world about the impact of the earthquake, and swing into action in tandem with the local authorities.
The support provided by the NIAR Ham operations, using the equipment procured under the DIT, came very handy when other means of communications were either damaged or failed in the Tsunami affected areas of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. It enabled various sections of the affected population to communicate within and outside the Islands. The communication support and relief operations provided by NIAR received appreciation the world over, and from the local administration.
Following are some of the salient features in respect of the rescue and relief operations carried out, which attracted the worldwide attention:
¨ A total of 15 Ham members were deployed by NIAR
¨ 36,000 contacts were established on HAM Radio
¨ Local authorities were first informed and provided with instant communication facilities to assist in their relief operations along with Air Force, Army and local administration units.
Before the earthquake: "Angel of the Seas" Bharati Prasad, VU4RBI, operates a ham radio demonstration at the Science Center near Port Blair, Andaman Island, on December 22 to introduce Amateur Radio to local navy cadets. Post-quake contact between Andaman and Nicobar islands is maintained by two groups of hams who participated in the DXpedition, who are relaying traffic to and from respective authorities and relief groups.
Special Achievement Award
The recipient of the Dayton Hamvention Special Achievement Award is D. Bharathi Prasad, VU2RBI, a prime mover behind the VU4RBI/VU4NRO DXpedition to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in December. As the DXpedition was beginning to wind down December 26, a massive earthquake occurred off northern Sumatra, triggering a massive tsunami that claimed upward of 300,000 lives across South Asia. When the disaster struck, Bharathi immediately shifted the DXpedition into an emergency communication operation, and her efforts, as well as those of the other DXpedition team members, received widespread media attention. One news account dubbed Bharathi “Angel of the Seas” for her effort to reestablish communication links with the Indian mainland and other parts of the stricken region.
The DXpedition team also offered its services to the office of the Chief Secretary, Government of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in establishing an emergency communication network to assist the administration. For several days Bharathi Prasad and her DXpedition compatriots stayed on the air to pass emergency and health-and-welfare traffic from the stricken islands.
It was largely through Bharathi’s efforts that the DXpedition was able to gain permission from the Indian government to operate from Andaman and Nicobar Islands, still one of the most-wanted DXCC entities. Bharathi says she shares her Hamvention honor with her fellow operators, with the National Institute of Amateur Radio and the Indian government.
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