Devbrat Patnaik

Keonjhar/Bhubaneswar: Following allegations of absenteeism in teaching staff at educational institutions, the Mass Education department implemented biometric system to register the attendance of lecturers and employees in schools and colleges across Odisha. However, it seems some employees have devised a way to evade action despite having failed to attend office.

Fresh allegations have surfaced from Sirigida Regional Bigyan Higher Secondary School in Keonjhar district wherein the Principal Girija Shankar Mohapatra and another employee of the institution have been accused of tampering with the biometrics machine. Surprisingly, the allegations were levelled by the lecturers of the concerned college.

"Though the biometrics machine works on finger scanner, the Principal had had a deal with the biometrics installing agency to get two ID cards for himself so that he could use it as a sensor device to record his attendance. Both Mohapatra and the other lecturer are hand-in-glove in tampering with the biometric finger scanner. On working days when the Principal remains off-duty, the other employee is using his card to punch biometrics to register the former's attendance and when the latter stays off-duty, the Principal marks attendance on behalf of him. They are deceiving the government," alleged lecturers of the institution.

The lecturers were shocked to find out that biometrics marked the attendance of Mohapatra as 'present' on September 16 and November 26 this year even though he allegedly did not attend office on these aforesaid days.

Mohapatra, however, has refuted the allegations. "On working days, I reach office earlier than most of them. The allegations are baseless as I've not given any person opportunity to use my card to register my attendance," he said.

On the other hand, IT consultant Chandrasekhar Biswal has acknowledged that current biometrics machines are prone to tampering. "Those lecturers having fingerprint access can have dual access to biometrics using ID cards. To make it tamper-proof, the government should create a centralised database system and all the records should be stored in the Higher Education department. This will help the government is real-time tracking of biometrics," opined Biswal.

Mass Education department Minister Samir Ranjan Dash has reportedly ordered an inquiry into the alleged forging of attendance through biometrics. "Stringent action will be taken if tampering allegations are found true," said Dash.

In a bid to ensure punctuality among teaching staff, the State government installed biometric machines across colleges and universities to keep a record of in and out time. But the very fact that the allegations from Sirigidi Higher Secondary School could be just the tip of an iceberg has certainly posed a major challenge for the government now.