An emergency without communication quickly becomes a disaster. So, in order to minimise the distress caused, ham radio has a great role to play.
Amateur radio, often referred as HAM radio is a hobby and a service in which operators called ‘hams’ use their radio kits for wireless communications with other hams worldwide. This service has a great advantage in situations of disaster and natural calamities when all other means of communication fail.
Most helpful utility of ham radio is in emergency situations when information regarding an accident in a remote location needs to be transmitted to the authorities. In India, some of the laudable activities of ham radio are during the 1984 cyclones in Andhra Pradesh, the Bhopal Gas tragedy and the devastating earthquake in Maharashtra in 1993.
Ham radio activity is fun but in order to be a ham operator, you need to be a valid license holder and you should have the necessary equipment for transmitting. Basic way of communicating through ham radio is by means of Morse code (CW) and radiotelephony, in which you can speak to other ham operators across the globe. Everyday at specified times and frequencies called ‘nets’ radio amateurs come on air and exchange messages. But most recent developments of ham include sending pictures using SSTV (Slow scan TV) and RTTY( Radio Teletype) which is for transmission of messages on teleprinters. Each country has a code allotted to it for radio amateur work. India’s code is VU2. One of the privileges enjoyed by ham operators is that unlike other RF spectrum users, radio amateurs may build or modify transmitting equipment for their own use within the amateur spectrum without the need to obtain government certification of the equipment.
The latest help that the ham radio operators gave is after an earthquake rocked Haiti to its foundation in January 2010. Only amateur radio operators were left to relay vital messages in the immediate aftermath to emergency service centers throughout the country. Hams also played an important role keeping communication lines open during WWII.
What can give ham radio an advantage in today’s highly technical, gadget-oriented society is its simplicity.
If cell phone towers and Internet servers were knocked out of commission, it would fall to ham radios and their low-frequency transmissions to reach folks across the world.
Thus Ham radio is a boon to mankind and India is far behind many other countries in its Amateur radio operators population though it is the world’s second most populous country. The amateur scene in India presents a dismal picture with just about 2000 licensed operators of which only a couple of hundred are active on the air. Though countries like USA and Japan are less populous, their figures are more than half a million hams in the USA and 50000 in Japan.
The basic drawback of this is that most people in India are just unaware that such a hobby of amateur radio even exists. The media should play a vital role in popularising this hobby through artcles, radio talks and television shows. One way of enjoying the hobby of amateur radio is by joining a club in your vicinity. There is a HAM club in MIT, being run by a faculty member of Bio-Medical Department, MIT, Manipal and it conducts classes and prepares you to get a license. Join it to keep in touch with the latest developments in ham radio and various other club activities. Joining the club will teach you how to build your own wireless set for transmitting and receiving (a transceiver) thus preventing the cost in buying one.
How to get the equipment to operate a ham station?
One way is to procure wireless equipment after getting the license from the Ministry of Communication.
The other way is to build it. How do you build it? There are many books which explain in detail how to make your own wireless set. With some patience, technical training and little effort you can fabricate your equipment. You can get the spare parts required from any dealer of electronic goods. One good place is Mahalsa electronics in Udupi.
If you are willing to spend more money, readymade equipment is available with authorised dealers in India.
Some stunning facts:
-Public figures in India who are licensed ham operators include Indian National Congress president Sonia Gandhi (VU2SON), Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan (VU2AMY), and former Minister for Information Technology Dayanidhi Maran (VU2DMK).
-Indian amateur radio operators number just 16,000 for a population of 1.2 billion, or less than 0.002 percent of the population.
– In 2005, India became one of few countries to launch an amateur radio satellite, the HAMSAT.
-The first amateur radio operator in India was Amarendra Chandra Gooptu (callsign 2JK), licensed in 1921.
PS: I have cleared the Grade 1 and Grade 2 of Morse code. This was essential for getting a license in India so far. But I heard from my HAM sir in college that its not compulsory from now on. There’s a simpler procedure.
And mind you.. I had to wait for so many months before I got my police verification done for the license. Now the procedure is made simple and there’s an act waiting to be passed.
Lets see how it turns out to be.