School of detection

School of detection

Last Updated: Sat, Oct 08, 2011 04:30 hrs

The CBI has started an initiative to introduce school children to forensic methods, hoping it’ll help curb corruption.

It’s Friday. The old, red brick building of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in Delhi is bustling with activity. The hasty footsteps and sound of several voices speaking at once are a rare occurrence these days at this crumbling complex which once teemed with investigators, policemen, scientists, lab technicians and journalists. All that changed when the bureau shifted its operations to the swanky new headquarters nearby earlier this year. The entire staff and all the departments moved to the glassy building, but for the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL). The men and women who provide scientific support for crime investigation stayed behind and now sit in a maze of laboratories and departments scattered across the building. Through the week, they work undisturbed and in silence. But Fridays are different.

On this day, a fairly large group of school children — about 70 of them from the 10th, 11th and 12th standards — land up at the building to learn firsthand from experts the ways to fight corruption, various means of lifting clues from a crime scene and the stages of investigation. It’s an activity the CBI started on July 22 this year — sometime in between the two Anna Hazare protests against corruption. Ever since, about 10 schools from across the capital have been through the sessions.

“Forensic science is based on the Locard principle,” a scientist informs a group of eager students of Army Public School, Delhi Cantonment. Locard, she tells them, was the director of the world’s first crime laboratory and the premise behind his theory is: “Every contact leaves a trace.” A criminal, she explains, takes something with him but he also always leaves something behind. As she asks for a volunteer, several hands shoot up. Vishal Rathi, a student of Class XI, finally gets to pose as a corrupt official.

The scientist hands him currency notes worth Rs 800, but the boy is smart and holds the money gingerly from the corner. Even so, when she gets him to dip his hands in a jar, the solution in it turns a deep pink. “This is what you do when you go out into the world and people demand money from you to do their job. All you need to do is inform the Anti Corruption Bureau,” she says. The students want to know what if the man was wearing gloves or asks for the money to be put in a drawer. “Even then, the trace will be there,” they are told.

From here the students head to the biology division, where scientific assistant U S Thakur shows them how CFSL identifies whether the brown spots at a crime scene are blood or some other stains. “This,” he says, “is a preliminary test which can detect up to 200 nanogram of blood.” Inside the fingerprint laboratory, there is absolute silence as the students watch fingerprints being lifted from a multicolour surface with the help of UV light. Several students want their own fingerprints on the lifting strips and the lab assistant happily obliges.

But what draws considerable interest is the lie detection department. After they are told how a polygraph test is conducted, practically every student demands to be wired up to face the test. The officer conducting the session allows himself a smile and says, “Not in this funny environment; it won’t work.” The test, he explains, detects only the fear of detection and not the lie. That’s something not many knew. After a crash course in voice detection, computer forensic and identifying forged documents, students head to the new CBI building for a power point presentation on what the agency does.

And then it’s an open house where senior CBI officials, including joint directors and DIGs, face a barrage of questions from them: What about corruption in the police? What is happening to the Aarushi murder case? My parents mentioned a wrong address on the passport; is that corruption? What do we do if schools demand donation? Is the CBI sometimes pressured?

The idea of the sessions with students took shape over a casual conversation between CBI Director A P Singh and senior officials about how children now lobby against firecrackers. “We thought if we can get students to lobby against corruption, starting from their homes, a lot can change in society,” says an official. “What’s heartening is that at this stage, before they are launched into life, they’re all very clear that corruption is bad.”

More from Sify: