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Ham Radio Fails To Take Off

Statesman News Service

Kolkata, India

JAGATSINGHPUR, March 13. — The move by the state government and Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA) to provide communication during emergency or natural calamities under the community-based disaster preparedness programme by setting up Ham radio clubs in remote areas has become a total failure.

Volunteers, who had undergone training, have already forgotten as to how to operate it due to lack of practice and the delay in setting up the clubs.

Since the 1999 cyclone, OSDMA and others focused on improving communication systems by using Ham radio during exigencies as the electricity and telecommunications are disrupted in natural calamities.
Realising the need of Ham radio, OSDMA had decided to provide an alternative medium of communication during emergency period through Ham.

OSDMA requested district collectors to identify the institution and colleges, where physics is being taught — to set up Ham clubs which will function as centres for training and communication. The government decided to set up 10 Ham clubs in the state, including in Erasama, Balikuda and Kujang blocks of Jagatsinghpur district.

Hundreds of boys of this district appeared the exam for amateur station operator’s license being conducted by Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.

Sixty two candidates, including 27 from Jagatsinghpur district, completed the test. All the successful candidates were trained by the government in collaboration with United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and National Institute of Amateur Radio (NIAR) in Hyderabad in 2002.

OSDMA also deposited the fees with the Ministry of Communication and IT for issuing license in favour of 62 candidates for a period of five years for setting up Ham clubs in the state.

Four years have passed and no steps have been taken to put these proposed clubs in place. Though UNDP had spent lakhs of rupees for purchasing Ham sets and other equipment, they have not been installed yet.

Jagatsinghpur district authorities identified three colleges in Erasama, Balikuda and Kujanga for setting up Ham radio clubs and the principals of these institutes had given an undertaking for the safe custody of the equipments.

OSDMA has directed all the principals to be the custodians of Ham sets, besides asking the block officials to supervise the equipments.
A volunteer, who had been trained to operate such sets, Mr Arbinda Sahoo of Borikina village, said that since he was out of touch with it he had forgotten its applications.

Locals have alleged that state government and district administration had spent lahk of rupees towards preparedness, awareness and other activities for disaster control, but no measures were taken on how to implement various projects for the safety of people during natural calamities.

District project officer, UNDP, Sukant Kumar Rath, said that 27 trained-volunteers have been sitting idle after obtaining licenses due to the non-implementation of Ham clubs in the district.

No one has shown interest in implementing the project in the district, he lamented.

In fact, not a single Ham club has been set up in the entire state till date, said reliable sources while wondering how sincere the government was in its disaster preparedness projects.