DNA profiling facility to help identify lost soldiers

Pune: In order to conclusively establish the identity of deceased Indian soliders, a Rs 2.5 crore DNA profiling centre is all set to become functional this month at the city based Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC).

The centre will be housed in the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology of AFMC with a repository/ data bank of DNA profile of Armed Forces personnel, initially covering those employed in hazardous tasks such as bomb disposal , flying fighter planes, research in explosive materials as well as the troops deployed in militancy infested areas.

"Subsequently the facility can be extended to all members of Armed Forces," according to Lt Gen H L Kakria, director general, Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) who described the setting up of the DNA profiling centre as "a long felt need".

Elaborating on the importance of having the centre for Indian Armed forces, Lt Gen Kakria said, "At present the identity of deceased armed forces personnel is established basically by methods like examining personal belongings on the dead body, studying the identification marks, comparing with photographs etc. However, these methods become futile in circumstances where there is extensive mutilation, disfigurement and decompositon of the body."

The centre would collect blood samples of 1,000 soldiers in a pilot project for analysis and gruadually cover 1.13 million soliders of the Indian Army, he said.

"The DNA profiling centre will have a far reaching implication for the Armed Forces in the years to come helping us to identify soliders who are lost in battles and cannot be identified," Lt Gen Kakria said.

Citing the circumstances of extensive mutilation of the body, making identification of the armed forces personnel difficult, Lt Gen Kakria said the DNA profiling facility set up at AFMC would cater to such unforeseen tragic eventuality.

"Following such catastrophies, DNA profiling of the available body parts is the only fool-proof scientific method of establishing identity of the deceased", he noted at a media interaction on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of Armed Forces Medical Research Committee (AFMRC) here.

"In the golden jubilee year – which marks a historic milestone in the journey of the Armed Forces Medical Service (AFMS), the committee will examine 167 research proposals", Lt Gen Kakria said and listed the award winning research projects AFMRC which include "Real load Metabolic Syndrome and associated risk factors amongst army personnel".

Another research project which has won acclaim is " Anthropometric Changes related to age in aircrew and compatibility in aircraft cockpit", he said.