It’s the centenary year of amateur radio in the country
Some collect stamps. Some coins. Many take to painting or gardening or making handicrafts. There are hundreds of hobbies that are pursued just for enjoyment.
Amateur radio, or Ham as it is otherwise called, is a unique hobby. A big attraction is that it allows you to communicate from anywhere: from the top of a mountain or from home, or even from behind the wheel of a car, without relying on the Internet or a cellphone network. One can even talk to astronauts aboard the International Space Station from your bedroom.
The current year, 2021, marks the centenary of the hobby in the country. In January 1921, Amarendra Chandra Gooptu of then Calcutta became the first Indian to get the licence to be an amateur radio operator. He was soon followed by Mukul Bose from the same city.
However, the number of enthusiasts in India is very low, nearly 45,000. Considering that the first public demonstration of electromagnetic waves was done by India’s pride and legend, Jagadish Chandra Bose, this number is pitiable. A major reason for this is a lack of facilities for training and inadequate information.
Most get to know about amateur radio only during disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Some positive movement happened in 1984, when the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, himself an amateur radio enthusiast, waived the import duty on wireless equipment.
There have been some good initiatives from the Narendra Modi government also. The Wireless and Planning Coordination Wing in the Union Ministry for Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, which regulates amateur radio in India, has done a commendable job by launching an online portal (www.saralsanchar.gov.in).
Radio transmission permits are closely controlled by governments because radio waves propagate beyond national boundaries. There is thus a system of licensing in most countries for amateur radio operators.
All countries that license citizens to use amateur radio require them to pass an examination. The new portal has made the process of getting the licence easier. Last year, some of us in the amateur radio community in the country came together and provided training for newcomers. Called Open Source Class for Amateur Radio (OSCAR), it is a pan-India programme. Anyone interested can enrol themselves on www.oscar.tsff.in.