Amidst rising controversy over the use of pellet guns, which cause severe eye injuries, the government has proposed that security forces will now use a chilli-based non-lethal munition, called PAVA (Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide), an organic compound found in chilli pepper, to quell violent protests by militants in Jammu and Kashmir.
An expert panel of the home ministry is exploring whether these can be replaced with newly-developed PAVA shells, a chilli-based non-lethal munition+ which temporarily incapacitates the targets and renders them immobile for several minutes.
PAVA shells contain Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide, an organic compound found in chilli pepper. It derives its name from the compound, which is also known as Nonivamide. It is considered to be bio-safe, less lethal than pellet guns and equally effective.
Though a final decision is yet to be taken, government sources said a seven-member panel comprising officials from home ministry and personnel from the BSF, CRPF, J&K Police, IIT-Delhi and Ordnance Factory Board is considering their use for control crowd. The panel is expected to submit its report soon.
These shells have been developed by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR), a laboratory in Lucknow under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The expert panel is learnt to have held a demonstration of PAVA shells at a test field belonging to CISF in the NCR earlier this week. Home minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday that an alternative to pellet guns would be found in the coming days.
"In 2010, it was said pellet gun is a non-lethal weapon which can cause least damage but now we feel there should be some alternate to this," he said.
The Army had last week suggested to the committee that it should opt for less lethal munition while controlling crowds in J&K. Northern Army commander Lt Gen DS Hooda had also said security forces should use less lethal weapons such as sound cannons, pepper shotguns and chilli grenades. "Alternative non-lethal weapons are available to disperse crowds during demonstrations. The panel sought our inputs and we have suggested that sonic weapons, pepper ammo and chilli grenades could be less harmful. The government is looking at these options," he had said.
Officials said PAVA shells were on trial for over a year at the IITR and its development has come at a time when J&K is on the boil.
On the Scoville scale (the degree to measure the power of chilli), PAVA is categorised as "above peak", meaning it will severely irritate and paralyse humans, but temporarily. It is also used as a food additive to add pungency, flavouring and spicy effect to food.
The expert committee seems in favour of PAVA shells is learnt to have recommended that the Tear Smoke Unit (TSU) of BSF in Gwalior should be tasked with bulk production of the shells.