The government is facing severe criticism for using pellet guns for crowd control in Kashmir Valley as the weapon has caused large-scale injuries in the unrest following killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on July 8. An expert committee constituted by the Union Home Ministry to find alternatives to pellet guns has zeroed in on potent and newly developed PAVA shells, a chilli-based less-lethal munition, which temporarily incapacitates the target and renders them immobile for several minutes. According to an affidavit filed by CRPF in Jammu and Kashmir High Court, PAVA shells have been used in the ongoing unrest in the Valley. CRPF personnel deployed across Kashmir have fired 800 shells of hot PAVA projectiles (pepper balls) between July 8 and August 11, says the affidavit. All you to know about PAVA shells:
1) What are these shells made of ?
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. It is also used as a food additive to add pungency, flavouring and spicy effect to food.
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2) What is the extent of damage caused by PAVA shells?
According to the panel, the compound will cause severe irritation and paralyse the person for a short duration. On the Scoville scale (the degree to measure the power of chilli), PAVA is categorised as “above peak”, having a temporary effect. Once fired, the shells burst out to temporarily stun, immobilise the target (protestors) in a more effective way than a tear gas shell or pepper sprays, and can also be used in combination with stun and tear shells.
3) How did these shells come about?
The PAVA shells, as per a blueprint prepared in this regard, were under test at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratory in Lucknow for over a year. The committee, in favour of PAVA shells has recommended the government to “immediately” ask the Tear Smoke Unit of the Border Security Force in Gwalior to produce 50,000 PAVA shells as the first lot.
4) Other alternatives than PAVA
Another alternative to pellet guns include ‘Tear Smoke Shell with Soft Nose’ which does not give serious injury to protestors when hit directly and its plastic body starts melting immediately on landing with emission of the smoke making it difficult to pick and throw away. CONDOR rubber bullet guns that fire spherical rubber pellets have been widely used by UN peacekeeping forces but are most effective in controlling small crowds. The FN303 uses compressed air to fire projectiles from a 15-round drum magazine. It is designed to incapacitate the target through blunt trauma without causing critical injuries since the projectile disintegrates on impact.
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