Digital Fingerprint Collection in Odisha Police Stations Spark COVID Worry

Collection of digital fingerprint from criminals, a routine task in most police stations across Odisha, has sparked concerns about safety amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The mandate to record fingerprint digitally, introduced two years ago, is now haunting the police due to spread of coronavirus.

Each member of the police force has one digital fingerprint scanner allocated to them. Due to such material constraints, they are forced to re-use the devices for the collection of fingerprints from multiple criminals. “We have no other alternative than using the same device for use by multiple accused persons. Though we are adopting all precautions, we are apprehensive about our safety in police stations. Our fear is understandable as several accused persons and our personnel have already been tested positive,” a police officer said.

The traditional way of collecting fingerprints via the ink-and-paper method was done away with nearly two years ago. This was done in a bid to improve preservation and ensure minimal manipulation of records. After the outbreak of COVID, it is mandatory for an RT-PCR test to be conducted on the accused to ascertain whether the individual concerned is infected before he/she is produced in the court. However, such tests are not the norm – and are not practically feasible – when fingerprints are to be collected.

The digital storage facility for fingerprints is presently available at nearly two hundred police stations in the urban areas of Odisha – predominantly in the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. The remaining four hundred-odd police stations in the hinterlands still use the traditional way of collecting fingerprints.

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