An expert panel constituted by the Home Ministry to find an alternative to pellet guns for crowd control following uproar against its use in Kashmir has zeroed in on ‘PAVA shells’, a chilli-based ammunition, which is less lethal and immobilises the target temporarily.
The committee held a demonstration of the newly developed shells at a test field here earlier this week and gave the thumbs up for use by security forces for crowd control and during protests like those being witnessed in the Kashmir Valley in place of the pellet guns which have caused grievous injuries and large-scale blinding.
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The ‘PAVA shells’, as per the blueprint prepared in this regard and accessed by PTI, were under trial for over a year at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratory in Lucknow, and its full development has come at a time when Kashmir is on the boil.
Sources close to the committee said it has favoured ‘PAVA shells’ as an alternative to pellet guns and has recommended that the Tear Smoke Unit (TSU) of the BSF in Gwalior should be tasked with bulk production of the shells “immediately”, with the first lot not of less than 50,000 rounds.
The name ‘PAVA’ stands for Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide, also called Nonivamide, and is a organic compound found characteristically in natural chilli pepper.
On the Scoville scale (the degree to measure the power ofchilli), 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 committee, the blueprint said, found that ‘PAVA’ can be categorised in the less-lethal munition category. Once fired, the shells burst and temporarily stun, immobilize and paralyse the target (protestors) in a more effective way than a tear gas shell or pepper sprays.
The panel noted that PAVA is “biosafe, better than chilli grenade or tear smoke shell and can also be used in combination with stun and tear shells” by security forces while tackling unruly protesters.
The committee also analysed and is understood to have recommended the supply of few other non-lethal/less-lethal munition to security forces personnel deployed for crowd control in the Kashmir Valley and other similar situations elsewhere. The recommendations were, however, not yet known.