HindustanTimes Fri,24 Oct 2014

This milkman is the sole hope for Bengal’s missing pilgrims

Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, June 26, 2013
First Published: 12:07 IST(26/6/2013) | Last Updated: 12:11 IST(26/6/2013)

Sitting in his dingy room at Sodepur, this dairy firm employee is the sole hope for dozens of families whose relatives went missing in Uttarakhand.


Armed with a small, black, ungainly kit, Ambarish Nag Biswas, a senior assistant with Metro Dairy, has locked himself in his room since Sunday taking phone calls and sending messages to Dehradun and Mussoorie control rooms. Biswas, who is on a week’s leave, has been operating his HAM radio — an amateur radio set — to send messages to the disaster-struck region, where no phone lines are working.

Over the past three days, he has received at least 60 calls from distressed families of missing people. Even the offices of district magistrates are routing calls to him, since he is the best bet to get messages across.

“Frantic phone calls are pouring in from people whose relatives are still missing,” said Biswas, a licensed amateur radio operator. Amateur radio, often called HAM radio, is both a hobby and a service in which participants use various types of radio communication equipment to get in touch with each other through airwaves.

“I’m sending messages with the names of missing people to HAM operators in Dehradun and Mussoorie. They’re forwarding the information to the authorities for search and rescue operations,” he said.

“I couldn’t get in touch with my relatives. The phone lines weren’t working. Then, I got Biswas’s number from a friend. He relayed my message to an operator on the ground. Finally, I got to know where my still stranded relatives — AR Sengupta, his wife, Lipika, and child, Trisha — were,” Ujjwal Dasgupta told HT.

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