Have you ever seen an ID card stamped with ‘No Fingerprints’? Bangladesh’s ‘Apu Sarker’ and his family have this extremely rare condition called ‘Adermatoglyphia,’ which has made them devoid of their fingerprints. Generally, the absence of fingerprints may not disable you from your way of living, but in the digital world today, fingerprints are significant, from your device’s privacy protection to public voting to traveling through airports and getting a national identity card. Yeah, fingerprints have now become an essential benchmark for navigating the world.
Apu Sarker, a young male from ‘Puthia Upazila’ of ‘Rajshahi’ has faced many challenges in his day-to-day life due to no fingerprints, especially when he had to apply for his National Identity card. Apu’s younger brother ‘Anu’ also has the same condition which the two brothers have inherited from their father ‘Amal Sarker’, who in turn inherited it from his father.
The family faces many challenges due to No fingerprints
Amal told the media that his father would not worry much about having No fingerprints. Amal and his father both did farming for a living. Amal and Apu showed their bare hands to BBC media in video call interviews, where the tips of the hands were completely smooth, with no fingerprint patterns. Amal told the media that he could not get a driver’s license even after passing the driving test, due to no fingerprints. He drives a motorbike which is essential for his farming business and carries with him a ‘license fee receipt’. However, he has been challenged twice when bemused officers could not understand his reasons for not having a driver’s license and thus issued him the fine. When the Bangladesh government introduced national ID cards for adults in 2008, it became a tedious process for the officials to scan the fingerprints of ‘Amal Sarker’, as their machines could not retrieve his fingerprints. After many failed attempts, they issued him an ID card stamped with “No Fingerprints” on it. Even for getting a passport, he had to go through many hassles before he finally got a passport after showing a medical board certificate for his condition to the officials.
He expressed how he had to face many embarrassing moments due to his condition. When in 2016, the government made it mandatory to match fingerprints with the database to get a SIM card issued, he faced the same problems. Now, all-male members of his family have SIM cards issued in the name of female members. As Amal discussed his struggles, he said that now his two sons are facing much more problems due to no fingerprints.
No fingerprints condition detected the first time in 2007
The No fingerprint condition called Adermatoglyphia became known ‘globally’ in 2007, when a Swiss dermatologist ‘Peter Itin’, met a woman patient, who was facing a similar problem due to which she was not able to enter the US. Her picture on her passport matched but custom officials could not record her fingerprints. On further examination, it was found that nine members of the woman’s family including her had this condition. With time, teams have worked on the study of this mutation, which appeared to afflict upon the hands of the person. Prof Itin also gave the disease the name ‘Immigration delay disease’ due to reasons evident from its repercussions. This disease can affect generations of a family, as is the case in Apu Sarker’s family.
A Bangladeshi dermatologist has named Amal Sarker and his family’s condition as ‘congenital palmoplantar keratoderma’, a version of the Adermatoglyphia, as told by Prof. Itin. More testing is required to confirm if it is actually any form of Adermatoglyphia. Meanwhile, Sarker’s have no choice but to deal with the day to day struggles of dealing with the system with no fingerprints. Amal and son Apu do have a different kind of KTP card issued to them, however buying a SIM card, or a driver’s license, and passing biometrics for traveling is still a hurdle for them.
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