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Forensic Lab facing severe staff shortage

Mohit M. Rao
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The Regional Forensic Laboratory in Mangalore desperately needs personnel.— PHOTO: H.S. MANJUNATH
The Regional Forensic Laboratory in Mangalore desperately needs personnel.— PHOTO: H.S. MANJUNATH

More than 200 crime cases, some stretching back more than six months, have been lying indisposed at the Regional Forensic Science Laboratory in the city. A visit to the centre at Derebail gives, to some extent, the reason for this: in the numerous rooms with unused equipment, only one science officer toils away at the cases in her department.

Two departments are “operational” in the laboratory – Toxicology and Biology. Out of the total 14 non-clerical posts have been sanctioned here – one Deputy Director, two Assistant Directors, three Science Officers and eight Scientific Assistants – only one science officer works on a full-time basis.

The Biology section, which conducts blood stain and seminal analysis, headed by Scientific Officer Geeta Lakshmi and without a Scientific Assistant, just about manages to dispose their cases.

Pendency

However, around 220 files stack up at the Toxicology section, which analyses chemicals arising mostly from unnatural death cases.

Among these yet-to-be-analysed samples is those sent from the body of Shobha (23), a domestic helper who died under mysterious circumstances in Shivabagh here on March 6. Her parents Shesha and Saroja, daily-wage workers from Belthangady, have been running from one police station to the other seeking an end to their trauma. However, the only reply they receive from the police is that the report from the RFSL was awaited.

Similarly, 16-year-old Sanketh’s family travel from Sakleshpur to the city on a weekly basis to find out how their healthy kin, working at a chicken centre in Kulashekar, could suddenly die of a “heart attack” in March. After post-mortem results were inconclusive, they now await the forensic report. “With there being a suspicion of the poisoning by his employers, this delay is inexcusable,” S.P. Anand, a Dalit rights activist representing their case, had said during a recent meeting with the city police.

Additional charge

The centre has no Assistant Director, while the Deputy Director of Belgaum RFSL is given additional charge, visiting it once a month. Officials at the Bangalore Forensic Science Laboratory, which manages regional centres, described Mangalore as having the “worst staff strength in the State”.

“We’ve had a series of retirements and unfortunate deaths that have reduced staff at the positions of AD and DD in the past six months. And, many Scientific Assistants have left, preferring to take up lectureships in colleges where they are paid according to University Grants Commission Scale, where they earn double what they earn here,” said a senior official.

Because of the shortage of trained staff, the proposals sent in February for setting up a Psychology division, for polygraph and brain mapping, have been kept on hold.

The senior official said although online recruitment would start by the end of the month for 42 Scientific Assistant posts, it would take another five months to train them.

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