With disaster management authorities stressing on precautions and preparedness in the north-eastern state of Tripura, a heavy earthquake-prone seismic zone V, Biswajit Saha, a Tripura Police inspector, has set up the state’s first amateur radio station.
Saha, who always had a strong knack for remote communication, space and science, has started a mission to raise a ‘radio volunteer team’ to help the government in times of natural disasters, like an earthquake.
He has set up a small and medium frequency ham radio base station at his home and is hoping to get a much more powerful high-frequency device soon.
“I developed a tremendous attraction for radio communication and started learning the tricks of the trade. It is an amateur radio activity. It is a service to the nation. In case of disasters, the first line of communication breaks down. But amateur radio stations will never be disrupted,” Saha told indianexpress.com.
Saha’s ‘Tripura Ham Radio Club’ has got nearly 98 members so far. They appeared in the first ever Ham radio exam conducted in Tripura in March this year, out of which 89 passed and are now waiting for their ham radio license.
One of Saha’s HAM radio trainees is his 17-year-old son Sougata Saha. The Class 11 student is highly enthusiastic with his own hand-held radio walkie-talkie, which has a reach of 5 km around the base station and can send messages across 30 km.
“This technology is very reliable and failsafe. We can use it in case of disasters and help people in crisis. My father taught me how to operate it. I appeared my ham radio exams and am waiting for the results now. This is very interesting,” Sougata said.
His unlikely ‘classmates’ include his father’s friends like businessmen Rajesh Roy, Keshab Sutradhar and Tapan Sutradhar and Pradip Kumar Kundu, a 60-year-old retired school-teacher who is a radio enthusiast since 1980.
Kundu is more into ‘DX-ing’, the hobby of receiving and identifying distant radio or television signals, or making two-way radio contact with distant stations in amateur radio, citizens’ band radio or other two-way radio communications, rather than amateur radio.
“We hope disasters never hit us, but if it does, we are ready to face it,” the amateur radio enthusiasts say, adding that they are confident about using it in times of crisis.
Saat Das, a senior officer of the State Disaster Management Authority, endorsed Biswajit Saha’s Ham radio experiment and said, “In a disaster when all communications fail, HAM can work. It’s a good opportunity for the government and individual to adopt HAM for humanity and disaster management.”
Saha’s amateur radio club has a weekly class on Sundays apart from special awareness programmes in suburban townships. However, their aim is to reach ham radio to the distant villages and there is much work left to be done for that.
Saha, who started off as an Electronics and Telecom Engineer in 1991, joined Tripura Police two years later and was posted in the police communications organisation.
He travelled to Kolkata, Guwahati and many places to be trained in amateur radio and finally cleared the examinations conducted by Ministry of Telecom from Hyderabad.
Tripura, which is located on the Indo-Myanmar fault-line, experiences a series of low-intensity tremors and cases of micro-volcanism like magmatic substances oozing out of the soil, hot water springs and other sub-surface activities time to time. These activities have put the disaster management experts on alert.
Recently, geologists opined that the state might be on Tripura-Chittagong fault belt, a second tectonic fold in the region.
With all these concerns, Inspector Saha has taken up the job on himself to build up the first and foremost preparedness – communication.
In the north-eastern state, mobile telephones depend on fibre optics communication and most convention lines of communication, like Internet, depend on steady power sources, which are vulnerable to natural calamities.
Army and Police radio communication works on their independent bandwidth, but they too might take an awful load managing the traffic of communication in cases of serious disasters.
Amateur radio operation is controlled by rules laid out by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The rules and protocols are enforced in India by the Wireless Planning Commission of the Ministry of Telecom. A Ministry-designed course is mandatory for anyone above the age of 12 trying to be a ham radio operator.
Two private higher educational institutions – ICFAI University, Tripura and Techno India College, have expressed interest in setting up ham radio laboratories in their campus to encourage students about the emergency communications technology.