In a first, the Indian Air Force has initiated a project for DNA profiling of its personnel, selecting a high-risk group of aircrew that undertakes dangerous missions for the first round. A database of the DNA records will be established in Pune.
The DNA samples of nearly 2,500 crew members who face “potential threat to life” during everyday operations are being collected. The project, initiated by the Directorate General of Medical Services (Air), was accelerated after last year’s helicopter crash in Uttarakhand in which 20 people died. It took several days before some of the bodies could be handed over to the families as they could not be identified.
A similar crash that took place in a high altitude area in the Northeast in 2011 also posed several difficulties for the medical teams in identifying the remains.
“Establishing identity of the deceased is not only a legal necessity but also a moral responsibility as it has emotional implications for the family members. DNA profiling of the available body parts is the only foolproof scientific method of establishing identity of the deceased,” said an IAF official.
“In the first phase, the samples of crew members who undertake dangerous missions are being collected, but this could expand across the force later,” said an official said.
For the past few weeks, blood samples of all
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IAF air crew in the high-risk group are being collected and the project is likely to be completed by July-end. “The blood samples being collected by single prick method will be recorded in FTA (Fluorescent Treponemal Antibody) cards, the process by which such a profiling is stored, to be part of the repository at the Forensic Department of the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in Pune,” said an official.
The DNA profiling of air crew from the Army and Navy has also been given priority. Over the next few years, once the project includes the entire armed forces, the FTA cards for nearly 1.5 million personnel are likely to be generated, making it the largest repository of DNA profiles in the country.