A news item published in The Hindu (Chennai Edition).
November 17, 1996
200 Hams to attend meet in city
CHENNAI: Amateur radio operatiors(HAMs) form across the globe are expected to participate in the 24th annual convention of SEANET (South East Asia Network), to be held here from November 22 to 24.
Several well known HAMs, including Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, Rajiv Gandhi foundation, and Mr. Kamal Hassan, film actor, will participate in the meet.
In memory of the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhii, who was an avid HAM, the event has been named after him.
About 200 delegates, several of them from South East Asia, including 90 from India, are expected to converge in Chennai for the convention.
Speaking to reporters. Mr. R.Ravikrishnan organising secretary, said the event was an occasion to meet people who had been speaking over radio to one another for several years, "in flesh and blood" and also to exchange information. Its venue changed from country to country, every year, India won the opportunity to hold it by defeating Australia by a margin of 12 votes.
Amateur radio enthusiasts had been assigned a special call sign, "VU96SEA" for the occasion several papers would be presented at the convention.
Mr. S.C. Babu, secretary, Madras Amateur Radio Society, said though the country had a large population of educated people, HAM was yet to become popular compared to other countries. While Japan had three million HAMs and the U.S., 1.5 million, India had only 10,000 licensed operatiors. the MARS had about 400 members. Chennai was the HAM capital of the country, with over 1,000 call signs. the main deterrent to the hobby was the price of equipment. If the Center waived the 25 per cent excise duty being imposed on the equipment, it would boost the hobby.
Recalling, intersting instances when HAM came to the rescue of people in distress, Mr. Babu said a stray SOS signal from the India expedition team in Antarcica was picked up in Chennai by an enthusiast, HAMs in pune were in turn alerted by him to pass on the message to the official agencies concerned. Interstingly, amateur radio equipment was the only working communication device when the entire power system failed.
Dr. Gajapathy Rao, Organising Secretary, said besides being an enriching hobby, HAM had immense applications. For instance, on several occasions, particulalry during disasters, it had functioned as the only reliable communication link. Mr. M.Saravanan, film producer and a senior HAM, is the chairman of the event.