22 Jun 2008, 0334 hrs IST,TNN
CHENNAI: The arrest of two men involved in a forgery racket and their demonstration before police as to how a fake driving license can be produced within a matter of few minutes has once again brought to fore how ill-equipped authorities are in their fight against forgery.
R Ramesh (36), a computer science diploma holder and his friend S Babu (28), on Saturday, stunned the Nungambakkam police by issuing a fake driving license to a policeman. "He collected my photograph, scanned it and created a driving license within a few minutes," a policeman attached to the Nungambakkam police station told the Times of India.
The two men were arrested on Friday for forging driving licences, PAN cards and voters' identity cards and issuing them to people applying for passports and bank loans. Sri Lankan Tamils, who could not use their original passports to go to the UK, Europe and Canada, used the services of the duo to obtain Indian passports.
Ramesh and Babu have been involved in this illegal business for more than six months and were operating out of Nesapakkam in K.K.Nagar.
"They had the driving license format, the signatures and seals of the authorities stored in their computer.
Their customers had to just provide their photographs. The duo then would scan the photograph, fix it on the slot and take a colour printout. They also had the formats of election ID cards, driving licenses and PAN cards with them," K N Murali, assistant commissioner of police, Nungambakkam, said.
With forgery of documents like passports and other identification cards being done with ease by criminals using precision technology, it is high time the authorities resorted to harnessing biometric technology in surveillance systems.
Incidentally, biometrics is an access-control technology that analyses fingerprints, facial features or other physical characteristics of human beings. Computers which work on this technology reduces an image to a template of "minutia points'' notable features such as a loop in a fingerprint.
Though six branches of biometrics fingerprints, hand geometry, iris and retina scanners, voice recognition systems, and facial recognition systems are already in application in some of the states, Tamil Nadu is nowhere near introducing the system.
"Though we are considering its feasibility, there are no serious plans to introduce it in the near future. Technology or resources is not the problem. It's just that we have to take the decision," said CP Singh, transport commissioner.
With no biometric computers to aid police surveillance, it's been a field day for criminals such as Ramesh and Babu. "They had a network with brokers at Shastri Bhavan, where the passport office is located. The duo used to collect Rs 5,000 for an ID card, if the applicant wanted to apply for a passport, but charged loan applicants only Rs 1,000," an official said.
The police got a tip-off about the racket from Nanthakumaran, a native of Vavuniya in Sri Lanka, who was arrested while attempting to apply for a passport in Chennai recently. Nanthakumaran had come to India using a Sri Lankan passport and tried to get an Indian passport. He collected a fake election ID from the duo. However, police had no clue about the gang when Nanthakumaran was arrested. When the Sri Lankan had come to the Nungambakkam police station to sign as per the bail condition, he was questioned again, when he revealed about Ramesh and Babu.
History of the biometric system
The use of biometric technology, which utitilises body characteristics to identify a person, goes back to the ancient civilisations of Egypt and China. However, modern-day biometrics has evolved thanks to the contribution of several minds.
Joao De Barros, a European explorer is credited with recording the first known system of fingerprinting in the 14th century AD. Alphonse Bertillon, a policeman from Paris, studied body mechanics in an effort to identify criminals. In recent years, John Daugman, a physicist, has done pioneering work in developing the bio metric iris recognition system. Owing to its accuracy, biometric systems are being used to help nab terrorists.
Pakistan recently installed biometric systems at its border to keep a check on cross-border militancy from Afghanistan.
When K Vijaykumar was Chennai city police commissioner five years ago, the city police had worked on a project to link their database of criminals with each and every patrol unit in the city. This project was then headed by joint commissioner MK Jha.
With the aid of biometric computers, patrol units, upon spotting a suspect on the road, could scan and take in the person's details and send it to the commissioner's office. Within minutes, the suspect's data could be cross-checked with the database. The project has, however, been shelved owing to the prohibitive cost involved.
However, a senior official said if government takes a policy decision, it could be introduced pretty fast. "Much of the ground work has already been completed," he said.