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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Online ham radio sale triggers terror alarm

Police and veteran ham radio operators in Kolkata are worried over the unrestricted online sale of these amateur radio sets, which can be used to tune into any frequency for unmonitored communication. Kolkata Police is particularly wary of the sets being used by northeast-based terror outfits and even Islamic State modules in neighbouring Bangladesh. While ham radio frequency is between 144 MHz and 146 MHz, some of the sets being sold over online retail platforms like Amazon India, eBay and ShopYourWorld have a much wider frequency spectrum that can be exploited by terror modules to communicate with each other. Cops in the state have received intelligence alerts about ham sets being used by the militant group Kamtapur Liberation Organization, which has a presence in north Bengal. The Chinese ham radio sets being sold online have a frequency spectrum of 136 MHz to 174 MHz that covers weather satellites, amateur ham, police and marine. Sets with such powerful transmitting capacity in the wrong hands make the country vulnerable to subversive activities, says Indranil Majumdar, licensed amateur radio operator and an electronics engineer. Frequency is allocated globally as per the International Frequency Allocation Plan released by the International Telecommunication Union, Geneva, to which India is a signatory. India then decides which frequencies it will allot to whom through the National Frequency Allocation Plan. "The radio sets being sold online are called Ham radio sets because these wireless gadgets are pre-programmed to transmit and receive voice communication over frequencies designated for Ham operators. But they can easily be re-programmed to transmit and receive voice messages on other frequencies," warned Arya Ghosh, former secretary of Bengal Amateur Radio Society and member of American Radio Relay League.

Ghosh has lodged a complaint with the International Wireless Monitoring Station (IWMS) in Kolkata, highlighting the security concerns. IWMS engineer-incharge Rajesh Dora acknowledged receiving the complaint and said it was being forwarded to senior officials in the department of telecommunication. "If Ham radios with greater capability do get into hands of undesirable persons, it can pose a serious problem," said Dora. Kolkata Police is wary about the online sale. "State intelligence has been warning us that illegal radio sets are being used by the KLO to keep in touch with north-east based terror organizations. The very fact that even IS is looking at all forms of communication devices to link its organization in India and Bangladesh, we cannot take chances," said a senior STF official. Vishal Garg, joint CP (STF), said his team was in regular contact with Ham operators. "We are sure any illegal use of this communication device will be brought to our notice by them," he said. Security agencies said they already have inputs on how illegal telephone operators, working from unauthorised centres in and around Kolkata and other parts of the country on unapproved band-widths and with smuggled handsets, are tapping into the same air frequency used by Ham operators. However, there is some ambiguity over when and how they can intervene. Ham operators said online sales can take place but merchants have to take the onus of collecting the copy of ham radio licence after verification at the time of delivery . "They should maintain a separate database of those customers buying Ham radio sets with licence proof and additionally with the ID proof of the customer," said Ghosh, adding that the ministry should ask merchants for the list of customers and contact details of customers who have purchased Ham radio without licence and ask merchants to make necessary arrangements to bring back the sets after refunding money .

Source and credit:- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Online-ham-radio-sale-triggers-terror-alarm/articleshow/53836502.cms and 
Facebook account of Shri. Alokesh Gupta, New Delhi. alokeshgupta@gmail.com

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