Srinagar: The devastating floods marooned everything in Kashmir, including the fibre-optic based and mobile telephone communication system, but a team of 13 officials from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) ensured that the Valley was reconnected to the outside world for coordinating relief work.
The four communication nodes with direct satellite link set up by the ISRO team proved vital in ensuring round the clock communication between the officials of the state government and other agencies in the flood-affected areas as well as the outside world.
The first node was set up on the premises of Hari Niwas Guest House, which had become the make shift seat of the state government with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, several of his ministers and top officials operating from there.
The other three nodes were installed at Rajbhawan, Civil Secretariat and Srinagar Airport.
"Our team waded through waist deep water to install the communication node at the Civil Secretariat," Virender Kumar, group head of Satcom Systems and Technology Group (SSTG) at ISRO's Space Application Centre at Ahmadebad, told PTI.
Kumar and his team left Kashmir for home today, satisfied that the Valley has been connected to the country-wide Disaster Management Support (DMS) network.
"At ISRO, we are working for last couple of years on setting up a nation-wide DMS network. We will be enhancing the capability of the network in the coming time.
"We have handed over the four nodes to the state government if, God forbid, these are needed again," he said.
Kumar was all praise for the state government employees who learned in the shortest possible time how to operate the communication nodes.
"ISRO will arrange for the annual maintenance contract for these nodes but it is now the responsibility of the state government to keep this equipment in good shape," Kumar said.
Asked why the DMS nodes were not installed earlier as Jammu and Kashmir is in a disaster-prone zone, he said ISRO was ready to install these nodes across the country but it is the state government which has to come foward with its requirements.
The ISRO official said the space research organisation is mulling to connect the DMS nodes to the ground optic fibre network.
"This will allow the use of these communication nodes through the ground optic fibre in normal times and the same equipment can switch over to satellite communication in case the ground network is snapped as in case of Kashmir floods," Kumar added.
He said this way the equipment will be in use round the year, minimising the chances of it not functioning at the time of need.
The DMS nodes, besides providing telephone connectivity, also gave access to the state officials including the Chief Minister to the internet facilities.
"The broadband facility was operation round the clock while the Chief Minister's iPad was enabled through one of the nodes," he said.
Kumar and his team expressed their gratitude to the people of Kashmir and the state government for the logistics and hospitality extended to them during their 10-day stay in the Valley.
"We came here on the instructions of ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan and SAC Centre Ahmadabad Director A S Kiran Kumar ... We arrived blindfolded not knowing what lay ahead of us.
"We are thankful to Chief Minister, the officials and the people for the hospitality ... We did not expect it in such difficult times," Kumar said.
The ISRO official said people of Kashmir did not owe his team any gratitude as "we only did our job. The biggest takeaway from this tragedy has been the number of good friends we made here".