Disaster-hit planners revisit forgotten HAM radios




By IANS,

Shillong : The 6.8-magnitude earthquake that shattered the hill state of Sikkim has woken up planners in Meghalaya to the urgent need to reintroduce HAM or amateur radios for uninterrupted communication in the aftermath of a disaster.

Most of the planners felt that communication was vital in a post-disaster situation to speed up rescue and relief operations.

Meghalaya, classified as Zone-V, is considered the world's sixth most quake-prone belt. The 1897 quake that occurred in the Shillong plateau had left 1,542 people dead.

"Relying only on mobile and landline is fraught with risk. The cables might snap in the event of an earthquake or disaster. In such a scenario, landline and mobile phones would not work, so digital satellite public telephones are the best options," said George Marshal of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).

Sanjoy Banerjee of Assam Rifles, however, said such phones might develop technical snags with satellite failure and, therefore, the best way was to have a relook at HAM radios.

"These radios are not just cost effective, but totally free from external cables, depending on free-to-air radio frequencies. School and college students can be trained to adopt it as a hobby. Handling the equipment is very easy," said Banerjee.

Banerjee says the "outdated technology" has proved its worth time and again -- as recently as during the 2004 tsunami that hit a vast coastal area of India.

"We need to seriously think of expanding the network of HAM radio enthusiasts because of the simplicity of the technology and cost effectiveness," he emphasised during the meeting.

HAM radios were lifesavers during the world wars and the only means of fast communication between handlers.

It was then operated through Morse code, but now voice can be transmitted. However, with the advent of new technologies, HAM radios have been consigned to the status of mere recreation of radio enthusiasts.

The ministry of telecommunication issues license after a candidate passes the amateur wireless telegraph operator's licensing examination.

There are various HAM radio clubs across India and also institutes giving training to enthusiasts and cadets of Bharat Scout and Guides.

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