Professor Lalji Singh, the vice-chancellor of BHU and a Padma Shri recipient, popularly known as the Father of DNA fingerprinting in India, passed away Sunday night from a heart attack. He was 70.
His title came from his groundbreaking research in developing techniques for DNA fingerprinting. He spent considerable efforts in convincing the Indian government of the wide range of applications possible with his research. The recognition finally came when after solving a couple of criminal cases using DNA analysis, Lalji contributed significantly to the case of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. This was followed by other high-profile cases, which led the Indian government to set up CDFD, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics. Lalji headed the Centre for the first three years of its formation.
After CDFD, Lalji served as the director of CCMB (Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology) for a decade, starting from 1998. Under his leadership, CCMB expanded to open various research centres, such as Advanced Laboratory for Structural Biology, a clinical research facility (CRF), Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), among others. LaCONES is the only lab in the world which studies the forensics of endangered animals.
Lalji also researched genomics of the Indian population and was able to prove that the tribes of Andaman were amongst the first humans who migrated from Africa. His research disproved the theory of Aryan invasion of India.
CCMB Director Rakesh Mishra was quoted in Indian Express saying, “His studies threw new light on the history of settlements in India, of past practices of marriages and endogamy and on the mixing of different gene pools.”
Until December 2, Lalji was working with Dr Moinak Banerjee and Dr Satish Kumar on writing grant applications on behalf of Genome Foundation. “The CCMB, BHU, Genome Foundation, ADNAT and his extended family of researchers and scientists mourn the unfortunate early demise of Prof. Lalji Singh with utmost gratitude and humbleness. We pray to almighty for his peaceful heavenly abode. The ADNAT and the Genome Foundation, without Prof. Lalji Singh, are unimaginable but we pledge to fulfil his dreams,” they wrote in an obituary for Lalji.
Lalji Singh was known not only for his scientific prowess, but also for his administrative efforts which led to a revamp of BHU. Under him, BHU saw the introduction of excellent student facilities and cultural initiatives. Students council elections were also held for the first time in 2011 with Lalji as vice-chancellor.
Lalji will be missed sorely by the scientific and academic communities of India.