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Manpower shortage hits FSL performance

At the end of February, the laboratory was left with 668 pending cases involving 10,329 exhibits

Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, April 8: Dispur is yet to fill up the large number of vacant posts in the State Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) to comply with the order issued by the Gauhati High Court. 
Scams of all shades keep springing up in Assam one after another and the authorities keep assuaging the public just by saying ‘evidences have been sent to the FSL to ascertain their veracity’. This practice is no better than ‘eyewash and buying time’ as sending evidences to the FSL in Assam is tantamount to putting the investigation of scams in cold storage. Lack of adequate manpower strikes a telling blow on the functioning of the laboratory, which is why the Gauhati High Court had taken a suo motu PIL (35 of 2016) on the condition of the FSL from a report published in The Sentinel, Guwahati.
A division bench of the Gauhati High Court comprising Chief Justice Ajit Singh and Justice Manojit Bhuyan recently directed Dispur to implement all the suggestions, including filling up vacancies, made by the appointed committee for smooth functioning of the Forensic Science Laboratories in the State within six months and report its compliance to the High Court.
The FSL located at Kahilipara in Guwahati is like a tree with a hollow trunk. Many important posts like that of senior scientific officers, scientific officers, junior scientific officers and others remaining vacant over the years have reduced the laboratory into a veritable cold storage for putting evidences of various scams, delaying their investigation.
One may be in for a shock to know that in the Directorate of Forensic Science, the lone sanctioned post of its joint director is vacant, five of the nine sanctioned posts of deputy directors are vacant, ten of the 12 sanctioned posts of senior scientific officers are vacant, five of the ten sanctioned posts of scientific officers are vacant, six of the ten sanctioned posts of junior scientific officers are vacant, eight of the nine sanctioned posts of senior scientific assistants are vacant, six of the 13 sanctioned posts of scientific assistants are vacant and 13 of the forty sanctioned posts of laboratory bearers and viscera cutters are vacant.    
A true reflection of the manpower shortage in the FSL is glaringly visible in its performance. Take the number of cases received by the FSL in February 2018 as a case study. The laboratory received 247 cases involving 2,521 exhibits in February 2018, besides carrying forward a burden of 644 cases involving 9,867 exhibits. It could submit test reports of only 223 cases involving 2,059 exhibits. At the end of February, the laboratory is left with 668 pending cases involving 10,329 exhibits.
How come one expects a better performance other than such a dismal one from a laboratory suffering from manpower shortage? Such a grim picture in the number of pending cases with the FSL with skeleton staff strength is bound to happen. This remains a chronic problem that has been lingering long, no matter who is in power at Dispur.