Ham Radio Club in India Reunites Lost, Injured Pilgrims and Travelers with Families
For the past 24 years, members of India’s West Bengal Radio Club (WBRC) have helped to reunite lost or injured individuals, many of them pilgrims attending the Ganga Sagar Mela festival each January. The Ganga Sagar fair and pilgrimage, held on Sagar Island’s southern tip in the Ganges Delta on the Bay of Bengal, attracts a huge number of people, and the club typically fields a special event station for the occasion. But each year, a number of visitors simply lose their way. This year, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the region once again reached out to the club for its help.
“Some people are admitted [to the hospital] at the time of Sagar Mela, and after the end of mela, many patients are waiting to return to their homes,” WBRC founder and secretary Ambarish Nag “Raju” Biswas, VU2JFA, told ARRL. “But some patients are not able to reach their destination on their own, and no family members have claimed them.”
WBRC members contact other radio amateurs in the home states of those who have become separated or, in some cases, just become lost, to reconnect them with their families and help them on their way.
Recently, a 25-year-old man — a Tamil speaker not in town for the fair — became hurt and lost and was hospitalized. Biswas, who does not speak Tamil, enlisted the assistance of another club member, T. Gopinath, VU3ZHC, who was able to translate. Armed with some information from the man and a photo, the club members, working for more than a month through ham radio and social media, were able to get in touch with the man’s family in the Vellore district.
“When we met him, he could hardly speak. He had head injuries,” Biswas said. They were able to determine that the young man, who was headed for Gujarat state for work, had ended up in Kolkata by mistake and had lost all his belongings on a train.
The young man’s father and brother came to West Bengal with documents to prove his identity, and the hospital and local authorities reunited him with his family.
Another patient in his early 70s has only been able to provide his name and state but nothing else, and after searching via ham radio, the club has been unable to repatriate him. He remains in the hospital in West Bengal. “We are trying our best,” Biswas said. “We found 563 persons this Sagar Mela.” He said others also remain in the hospital and in limbo.
A man in his 60s who had attended the mela awoke in the hospital after becoming separated from his family, which had returned home to Bihar state without him, assuming he was lost. Authorities turned to the radio amateurs at the club, who were able to reunite him with his family within a couple of days. — Thanks to Raju Biswas, VU2JFA, and to Greg Lee, KI6GIG/HS0ZHM