During disasters like earthquakes or floods, the first thing that goes kaput is power. Mobile networks then plummet. Cut off from our hyper-connected world, you would think there is no way to communicate until your cell phones come back to life, right?
Amateur radios have been around as a means of communication for decades. And the humble amateur radio and its amateur operators also played a role during the pandemic. Credit for pruning the amateur radio culture in Bengaluru goes to Dr S Sathyapal, whose call sign is VU2FI. An avid amateur radio operator who has trained thousands of young people to use the device and the Q codes used to communicate, he is also the driving force behind the Indian Institute of Hams (IIH).
In April 2020, as COVID-19 cases increased, Dr S Sathyapal received a call from a bureaucrat to set up an amateur radio station in the CM war room, which he rushed to made. âWe started to establish contact with operators across the country on a set frequency. We would help the people of Karnataka if they were stuck in different states or had a problem related to COVID-19. For example, after ‘there was a KSRTC bus returning from Gujarat with a team of medics. They could not find food because all the hotels were closed. We alerted the Pune network to deliver water to them and packages of food. I won’t say that we played a major role in handling the COVID situation but it was like a drop of water in an ocean, “Sathyapal happily explains.
Soumya, one of the HAM radio operators
This year again, the operators have not remained inactive. As soon as they got a call from the government, they set up an amateur radio station in one of the command centers in Bengaluru. âThe main idea of ââestablishing a radio station in the command center was to help the task force and ensure that people don’t stand in line or suffer long to perform the last rites. We would monitor 16 crematoriums with the help of almost 30 radio amateurs. operators, who lived there and relayed the information, âexplains Sathyapal.
Dr Sathyapal’s interest in amateur radios dates back decades: âFrom my childhood I was interested in wireless communication. Shortly after completing my PhD in Communication Management at the Indian Institute of Management and Business Studies, I applied for an amateur radio training. my exams and I graduated as an amateur radio operator. In 1993, I obtained my license from the Ministry of Communication and Broadcasting.
Fancy some ham in Bangalore?
But his love for radio communications is such that he decided to set up an institute to train people. Started with RJ Marcus, a veteran ham operator who is popularly known as the Indian Marconi, IIH has grown over the years. âWe started to promote amateur radio through several programs in schools, colleges and institutes. The reason for the establishment of an institute in 1993 was that there was very little awareness of amateur radio among local people. Indians. Now we have more radio operators in India than in Argentina. However, a lot of work remains to be done in this area. “
Venkat, one of the HAM radio operators in Bangalore
Train thousands of students
So how many lots take radio training each year? Sathyapal explains, âWe organize training for four lots because the Ministry of Communication and Broadcasting organizes an exam four times a year. Other than that, we go to engineering institutions and other colleges to bring in students and train them in some of these lots. However, due to the pandemic, we are providing online courses. But the number of people undergoing amateur radio training has not decreased. Since the beginning of 2020, we have trained around 600 people in the operation of the radio.
But that doesn’t mean that everyone will pass the exam and qualify to become an amateur radio operator. “For example, if 100 people apply for the exam, then only 70 people can pass it. And among those 70 people, all might not even have a radio station in their home. While some of them may. allow, others might not. Likewise, not all people who pass this exam may like getting involved in disaster management. Some may use it only for recreation or to connect with people from around the world whole. “
Dr S Satyapal operating HAM radio at his home
Sathyapal chooses people with a social mind and places them under the umbrella of the Ham Action Force Group. âWe train these people in the field by doing exercise simulations and helping them understand the process. We have three HAM radio kits ready in the main control room. Even if the person does not have a kit but knows how to operate, we provide them. kits during disasters, âsays Dr Sathyapal.
Teach them walrus
In addition to this, the IIH also trains children in Morse code, which is still universally used as a form of urgent transmission. âThis year is the first time that we are taking Morse Code training online. Our 2021 batch has over 60 students across India – the youngest being a Class VI student,â says. he.
Does it work for children, one wonders? “A child’s level of concentration and grasping ability increases when trained in Morse code. I train my six-year-old granddaughter who has already learned 16 alphabets using Morse code,” says Dr Sathyapal who is happy to take classes. online despite several technological challenges.
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