By Jim Smith, VK9NS
About one year after my visit to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman Islands to visit Mani, VU2JPS I began to think of the possibility of making an application for an Indian Amateur Radio License.
The situation in India regarding the issue of amateur radio licences to foreigners is quite complicated but there is licensing structure in place to process applications. Both National and Foreign licenses are issued after extensive routine checks are carried out. The license is issued under certain conditions - most important is the location of the station and that is clearly stated on the license and also to the equipment to be used. Changing any of these points results in the license requiring amendment before it is valid once again.
The Ministry of Communications, W.P.C. Wing is responsible for the issue of amateur radio licenses and an application must be made to this department. I would like to say that in my own case my application took about 6 months to be processed. Given the complications that it was a foreigner making the application it must be said that in my view the time frame seemed to be very reasonable. The most important thing is to make the application properly (in triplicate) and all matters listed on the application must be dealt with.
First you must have a valid Indian Visa and the license when issued is only okay for the period of the visa. In my case I opted to apply for a five year visa which was issued very quickly. It is noted here that initially my VU2JBS license was issued for a five year period, March 1996 - March 2001. However around the time of issue in February/March of 1996 there was a change of policy - licenses would have to be renewed on a yearly basis (this stresses the point that the location of the station must stay the same for the period of the license). My license was amended to cover one year and I have since been through the renewal process without any difficulty.
I have always found the staff of WPC very courteous and friendly. In fact during my stay in New Delhi in November 1997 I was able to meet many of the staff in person at WPC.
It must be said that I was worried about my arrival in New Delhi with all my radio equipment. All of you who have been on a DXpedition know just how quickly all the weight builds up. My excess baggage was considerable and I had left Heathrow after paying several hundred dollars in excess baggage. I carried a comprehensive list of all major items - rig, antenna, keyer etc. and of course my actual VU2 license documentation. I arrived at around midnight and in due course proceeded to the Customs Area for clearance of my baggage.
It turned out that all my worries had been unfounded. There is now a new customs system in place in India where the foreign visitors are encouraged and are ably assisted to make a smooth passage through the customs formalities. Basically you must declare and show all dutiable items and these must then be taken out of the country when you depart. A similar system is in place in Bangladesh and for example items such as video cameras, amateur radio equipment etc. are marked in your passport. This ensures that these items are with you when you leave the country.
I can only say that Indian Customs at the Airport were very helpful and after showing my license, equipment list etc my clearance was processed very quickly.
My friend Yannick, F6FYD met me at the airport and next day saw us make a start to setting up the station in Yannicks’ work room. The VU2JBS station was very modest using a Kenwood TS690S and my trusty HF6V, Butternut Multi-band Vertical with multi-band radials which I have used on many DXpeditions. My TS 690S has a built in antenna tuner so this is a great help with any multi-band antenna. In India many of the houses have a flat roof area which was ideal for my HF6V vertical and its radial system and with the help of Yannick the antenna was installed without any problems. So the station was more or less ready to go.
Operating from New Delhi was very interesting and despite the relatively low power of 100 Watts and a modest antenna many QSOs were made. I worked a lot of CW as it was a ‘quieter’ mode and there was little or no disturbance to the household. In making some 3,000 QSOs over the few days of operating I was satisfied that finally my VU2JBS license had been put to good use.
During my days of operating as VU2JBS several contacts were made with my old friend Mani, VU2JPS and Mala, VU2MTC. It was nice to hear him with a wonderful signal with all the great audio quality of that TS680S which HIDXA donated to them whilst he was in Port Blair. I had planned to visit Mani and Mala during my stay in India, it would have been a happy reunion. They are only a few hundred miles from New Delhi but the loss of my wallet stopped that and for that matter several other things!! It is a sinking feeling to find that your pocket has been picked!!!
Apart from Operating...
During my visit to India I was able to do several things including going to WPC, the usual sightseeing and buying a few souvenirs etc. The various markets are really amazing. with hundreds of things catching ones eye from fruit stall, flower stalls, and dozens of different things from suitcases to watches to shirts, shoes and so on.
I did have to spend about two hours at the local police station!! It wasn’t that they wanted to lock me up but the fact that someone had picked my pocket and I was reporting things to the police!! It was a sad experience for me (as I should have know better) but my wallet, my money, my credit cards (very important when travelling) were all stolen including my reading glasses. Anyone who needs glasses to read knows what I mean - life is just not the same when you cannot read the smaller print!
Yannick, Nigiar and myself also visited with Bharathi, VU2RBI, husband Prasad, VU2DBP and family one evening and this was very pleasant. The next day we visited her again at the Offices of the RAJIV GANDHI FOUNDATION - AMATEUR RADIO CLUB and tried to help with some equipment problems. I soon found that the antenna which is a tri-band beam had seen better days. The beam had a high SWR on all three bands and inspection showed that one side of the balun was not connected as corrosion had spoiled the joint. Also there was a problem in the driven element with more poor joints between tubing sections. So really the beam needed a complete overhaul with all elements requiring attention and cleaning of the joints.
So with our limited time it was not possible to do much more. However Yannick went back a week or so after I had left and tried to do some further maintenance work on the equipment and antenna. The verdict was that a new beam was definitely required.
So my 11 day stay in India more or less came to a close I would like to extend my thanks to Yannick and wife Nigiar for their gracious hospitality. To WPC for their courtesy in processing my VU2JBS license.
The callsign has now become very special to me and I enjoyed operating from India very much.