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Books, bovines more valuable than bodies?

If about 2.5 lakh books and thousands of bovines can be e-tagged by the Goa government, why not a few hundred bodies at our mortuaries?

Story: Melvyn | Misquita | 03rd October 2018, 02:17 Hrs

By Melvyn Misquita

The Goa government has finally woken up to need to have e-tagging of bodies, after a shocking goof-up led to the swapping of two bodies at GMC’s mortuary unit and tragic consequences for a family in Aldona on September 29. They have been forced to live with the horrible reality that the body of their loved one had been wrongfully cremated by authorities the eve of the funeral.

But in its belated decision to have e-tagging of corpses following two similar blunders reported in four years, has the Goa government placed a greater value on books and bovines as compared to bodies in its custody?

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFIDs) devices, already being deployed extensively by the government and the private sector in the State, use radio waves to read and capture data stored on a tag attached to an object, person or animal.

These RFIDs (either external or implants) are considered cheap, unique and tamper-proof tags extensively used for people identification (healthcare and amusement), traffic management, tamper-proof labels (counterfeit and brand protection), manufacturing, supply chain and logistics, asset tracking, race timing and in livestock and pets for positive identification of animals.

An article on radio-frequency identification by researchers at the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal-Haryana, describes RFIDs as a system that transmits the identity (in form of a unique serial number) of an object, animal or person wirelessly using radio waves.

According to these researchers, this technology is commonly implemented using RFID tags (also known as transponders) enclosed in tamperproof covers and mounted/attached on objects and readers/writers (also known as interrogators). RFID tags comprise an integrated circuit (containing unique code, memory for storing and processing of data, modulating and demodulating radio signals, etc) and an antenna to receive and transmit signals.

They add that RFID readers/writers have three components - an antenna, a transceiver and a decoder. RFID readers can differ quite considerably in their complexity, form and price, depending upon the type of tags being supported and the functions to be fulfilled. Readers can be large and fixed or small, hand-held devices embedded or attached with mobile devices.

Goa’s Central Library has already adopted RFID tagging for about 2.5 lakh books, to safeguard the huge collection in the library and to prevent books accidentally or deliberately leaving the premises.

As part of this current and effective system at Central Library, an alarm is sounded and the staff alerted, in case the wrong book is taken -- accidentally or deliberately -- out of its premises. Necessary action to address the error or offence can then be initiated by the staff the moment the wrong book leaves the library.

But, as part of the current and ineffective system at GMC’s mortuary unit, no alarm is sounded in case the wrong body is taken -- accidentally or deliberately -- out of its premises. This leaves the GMC staff with virtually no chance to initiate necessary action to address the error or offence at that very moment. Which is what happened in at least two such cases here in Goa in the last four years.

The Goa government has also implemented the use of RFID system to provide identification on animals in the State. This system implanting RFID microchips has been implemented at the Copardem farm in Sattari for several years.

As part of the Kamdhenu scheme, thousands of bovines have also been implanted with RFID microchips for free all over Goa, to provide details of each animal and to curb misuse in cases of disputes and insurance claims.

In his article ‘RFID for Animal Identification in Rural India and Asia Pacific’, Shashikant Patil says RFIDs are a reliable, efficient and cost-effective method of identifying cattle, adding that RFID tags are very accurate, precise, faster and very secure and can be easily implanted also inside or outside for the entire life of the animal without any harm.

The widespread production and usage of RFID tags in objects, animals and people has led to a number of companies setting up manufacturing facilities in India. One such company has its production facility headquartered here in Goa to produce specialist and niche high-end and high-quality RFID labels and tags for a wide range of industries securing assets, facilitating cashless transactions and goods authentication, streamlining supply chains and bringing about efficiencies in manufacturing processes.

If about 2.5 lakh books and thousands of bovines could have been e-tagged by the Goa government since the last few years, why was a similar system not adopted earlier for the few hundred bodies at our mortuaries in the State, especially when an earlier goof-up regarding accidental swapping of corpses was reported four years ago?

Did it take a second horrible goof-up for the government to realize the need to adopt an electronic system, similar to the one already being implemented for books and bovines since the last few years? The necessity and benefits of e-governance are not only applicable to living beings in Goa. It can, and, as we have tragically witnessed on September 29, must apply to the dead as well.

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