Gandhi drives India’s first pvt forensic lab

FP
The Gandhi theme keeps returning during conversations with Dr Gandhi P C Kaza. He was born on January 30, 1948, the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated; a student of Gandhian philosophy, he chose the anniversary of the Dandi March day to push the idea of his business in March 2007; and an image of Mahatma Gandhi peering into a microscope figures prominently in posters and brochures for his venture.

His business itself, he says, is the search for truth through India's first private forensic science laboratory, Truth Labs.

A forensic scientist by training with a masters degree in arts from the reputed John Jay College of Human Justice in New York and an early, path-breaking director of the Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory, Kaza started Truth Labs in Hyderabad in 2007 with a corpus of Rs 2 crore.

He raised the money after selling a three-decade-old property in Hyderabad's upmarket Banjara Hills area for Rs 4 crore, and the Truth Labs venture has now spread to Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai and has been involved in as many as 5,000 public and private cases, including in some recent prominent ones.

Evidence from the Delhi High Court blasts case to the Zee-Jindal alleged extortion case has come to Truth Labs for analysis. In Karnataka, the government has even issued an order allowing police to seek the services of Truth Labs for emergency cases.

Through a combination of in-house facilities and collaborations with the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, the University of Hyderabad, the National Law School of India University, and the Bureau of Police Research and Development, Truth Labs has established a services system that covers the gamut of forensic sciences — from DNA analysis to cyber forensics, from video and audio authentication to document analysis.

"The idea behind Truth Labs is to provide affordable forensic science services to the common man. The common man even today cannot go confidently to the police and the court to get justice in reasonable time. This I saw coming through in all the four decades of my career. I thought I should do something with my abilities, expertise and background,'' says Kaza.

"Before setting up Truth Labs I had considered working for the revival of truth as a national character in India. I initially founded the Truth Foundation as a non-profit society. Truth Labs is one of the initiatives of the foundation. I don't know how far I will be successful,'' he said.

Using a mixture of his networking skills and personal credibility as someone who pioneered the growth of forensic sciences in India during his 15 year stint at APFSL, where he pushed the lab to become the first ISO 9001 quality-certified government department in India, Kaza has managed to convince courts in several states and investigation agencies such as the CBI, NIA, state CIDs and even the CVC to refer cases to Truth Labs.

"At least 100 cases where courts have not been satisfied by the work of state labs have been referred to us. The Prashant Bhushan audio case came to us and the court upheld our report. Video footage in a recent big media row was before us,'' Kaza said. Banks, insurance companies and corporates who like to avoid messy public investigations are among other users of Truth Labs' services.

Kaza, who early in his career turned down a job offer at the NYPD, says forensic sciences in India is at least 20 years behind that in developed countries. Five years into its existence, Truth Labs, which charges Rs 5,000 for any service, has been able to break even only in Hyderabad and Delhi.

"Revenue is a concern. After the initial funding of Rs 2 crore, I am still shelling out Rs 1-2 lakh every month. We are losing money in Mumbai and Chennai but I am determined to see it succeed," Kaza said.

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