HAM Radio Operator Helps Tsunami Victims
An amateur radio enthusiast based in the Capital has succeeded where most government agencies have failed. Sandeep Baruah, a licensed HAM operator who works in a government organisation by day and pursues his hobby from home at night, has managed to establish communication links with Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and has helped relay messages between the people stranded on the island and their families back home.
Sitting at his terminal Tuesday afternoon, Baruah told The Tribune that he has received 10 “calls” over the past 48 hours. “I have received e-mails and SMSes from several places at home and abroad … Bangalore, Ranchi, Pune and Thailand …. I have relayed all their messages to this team of HAM operators stationed at Port Blair and forwarded the replies from them to the families wherever they are,” he said. One such distraught family is from New Delhi.
Dr Karan Singh Chauhan, who teaches in a college here, was holidaying with his two sons and a daughter on the island when the tsunami hit the shore. It had only been a few days from the time they reached Port Blair. “Fortunately,” Dr Chauhan recalled, “There were these people staying on the fifth floor of the hotel where we were put up … they had this equipment (HAM), so we asked them if they could relay the information of our well-being to people back home.”
Within hours, Sandeep Baruah was on the telephone informing Dr Chauhan’s domestic help of their whereabouts. Dr Chauhan and his family, who returned to the Capital last night, have not spoken with Baruah yet but he is all praise for him and the amateur radio operators on the island for coming to his help in their hour of need. Baruah, meanwhile, has no regrets. He has no time for that for there are other calls to be attended to, he says as a distant station crackles at his terminal.
Like Dr Chauhan, Mrs Cesar Maia from Bangkok, Thailand, has established contact with Baruah. She wants to if her husband is safe and sound on the island. “I have not received any news about her husband but I am trying … the audio quality today is poor, so I might have to wait longer to hear from my counterparts stationed on the island,” says Baruah, who is happy being Good Samaritan for people he has come to know only in the past few days.
Meanwhile, Dr Chauhan is still to recover from his harrowing experience on the island. “Buildings were literally swaying from side to side, the hotel where we were staying was damaged … there were cracks in the walls, the sea was violent and washed away anything and everything that came in its way … even the boundary wall of a college nearby was swept away … all of us spent the first night outside,” he recalls before he, his children and one other family flew to Kolkata on way to Delhi.
Courtesy - Tribune News Service
HAMs To The Rescue
|Forty-odd hams operators in the city render invaluable help in the wake of natural disasters|
"GOOD EVENING All Stations, this is VU2JAW. I will be your net controller this evening for the Trivandrum VHF Net..." Every evening at 9.30 p.m., an amateur radio (ham radio) operator manning a small radio station in Thiruvananthapuram comes on air with this signature broadcast. Soon, other hams join him on the air.
On December 26, all these enthusiasts were put on `red alert' following the tsunami that battered South Asia. Anxious relatives from all over Kerala called in with requests to locate those working in the affected areas.
"Many people wanted information about people working in Male. From Thursday, we have a new ham in Male called Ali. We are constantly in touch with him. He was able to pass on information about a Satheesh from Palakkad whose relatives had contacted us. Ali told us that the people on Fonodu island in Male, where Satheesh was working, had been evacuated."
As many of the BSNL towers in the affected areas have been damaged, these radio operators keep the communication lines open. They have members all across Kerala and Tamil Nadu. "Since Wednesday we have a ham operator in Velankanni who is helping scores of families," says Sanil Kumar, one of the ham enthusiasts in the city.
The daily radio conference session of the Trivandrum VHF Net is like logging into an Internet chat room. The net controller is the moderator, says a city ham. The Trivandrum VHF Net is an exclusive discussion forum for 40-odd ham enthusiasts in the district. Members are forbidden from discussing political, religious and commercial matters on the VHF Net. The radio conference is mostly about ham equipment, maintenance of radio sets and developments in broadcast technology. Sometimes, the conversation meanders to personal and social issues, says a member.
Amateur Radio is an international hobby that has several veteran practitioners in Thiruvananthapuram. Jayaraman, former professor of the College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram, Umadathan, former Principal of the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, and Krishnankutty are among the senior HAM radio operators in the city.
Amateur Radio Society
In the city, amateur radio related activity revolves around the Trivandrum Amateur Radio Society (TARS). Established in 1973, TARS members meet twice every month. They are responsible for coordinating amateur radio activity in their area. The hams in Kochi and Kollam have their own amateur radio societies. The TARS has a VHF Repeater for enhancing the range of radio communication. The repeater serves most hams in the city and is also accessible to operators in Kollam, Varkala and Kochi. In emergency situations such as natural disasters and accidents, hams put their skills and radio equipment at the disposal of rescue workers and Government agencies.
TARS was instrumental in setting up a wireless link between Kerala and Gujarat in the wake of the Gujarat earthquake that killed hundreds and rendered thousands homeless in 2001. Hundreds of Malayalis were among those affected by the earthquake.
The TARS was called upon to set up a radio communication facility at the Government Control Room in the Secretariat. By communicating with hams and other agencies in Gujarat, the TARS could get accurate and up-to-date information on the Malayali population in Gujurat. The TARS is currently engaged in popularising HAM radio as a hobby. The society helps new comers obtain the license for becoming an amateur radio operator. For more details, the TARS could be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or the TARS website at www.tarsindia.org.
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