What sounded like a traditional boat-race song filled the HAM radio centre at the Kerala State Science and Technology Museum (KSSTM) here, sending a group of 13-year-olds into fits of laughter. After the crackly rendition, the students introduced themselves to those at the other end of the airwaves, located in Idukki district.

The group of students who attended the session at the KSSTM were members of the Kerala State Bharat Scouts and Guides. Saturday’s exercise here was, in fact, part of a global event called ‘Jamboree on the Air’ that celebrates communication using amateur (ham) radio.

Young scouts were being given the lessons in order to equip them to liaise with people and police in times of distress.

Anjana, a student of the city’s Holy Angels’ school, said she was thoroughly entertained by the classes that sought to keep alive an enthusiasm for communication via radio.

She is also considering applying for a licence to be part of an amateur radio network that is apparently thriving in the country.

It is probably the one hobby that requires a government licence to practice. In India, even though administrative processes tend to take time, there are around 15,000 licence-holders and 6,000 active users, according to members of the Radio Amateur Society of Ananthapuri (RASA). This is a collective of radio users in the city who teamed up the KSSTM and the Scouts’ organisation to demonstrate the equipment to students from various city schools.

Since the ham centre was set up at the museum in 2008, classes are being taken every Thursday and Friday evenings to coach prospective users to take the examination to qualify for the Amateur Station Operator’s Certificate. This is held by the Wireless and Planning Cell under the Union Ministry of Communications. “This examination tests applicants’ knowledge level in basic electronics theory and awareness on how to receive and send Morse code,” said D. Joseph, who conducts training here.

This is the second time that the State is hosting Jamboree on the Air and there are 15 stations set up across the State as part of the event.

There is a charm held by this communication system that has been largely displaced by the advent of the mobile phone, say RASA members. “For one, a community of users who belong to different professional backgrounds are brought together by our common fascination for radio communication. You learn, you discuss, and you get or send help without worrying about disturbance,” said Reji, who works at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

Its application in terms of disaster management has even prompted authorities in countries such as Japan and Indonesia — which suffered communication blackouts in the wake of calamities — to ease the licensing process, he added. The failure of telephone lines during natural disasters highlights the efficiency of hams. Users will be able to connect and ensure that aid is sent to the right locations in a timely manner.