The controversial pellet guns used widely by security forces in the Kashmir Valley may soon give way to PAVA shells, a chilli-filled ammunition, which is non-lethal but only immobilises the target temporarily. While Home Minister Rajnath Singh promised in Srinagar to introduce an alternative to the pellet guns, Home Ministry officials in New Delhi said that PAVA shells could be the new weapon to tackle stone pelters.
Conceding that pellet guns did not prove to be “non-lethal”, the Home Minister said an expert committee will submit its report within three to four days on the use of pellet guns. “We will propose a substitute to pellet guns,” he assured. Reports from Delhi said that an expert panel held a presentation of the newly-developed shells at a test field 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 Valley, in place of the pellet guns which have caused grievous injuries and large-scale blinding.
The PAVA shells, as per the blueprint prepared in this regard, 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. It is understood that the committee has recommended that the Tear Smoke Unit (TSU) of the Border Security Force in Gwalior should be tasked with bulk production of the shells “immediately”, with the first lot containing not less than 50,000 rounds.
The name PAVA comes from Pelargonic Acid Vanillylamide, also called Nonivamide, and is an organic compound found characteristically in natural chilli pepper.
On the Scoville scale (a measurement of the pungency of chilli peppers), PAVA is categorised as “above peak” meaning it will severely irritate and paralyse humans temporarily. It is also used as a food additive to add pungency, flavouring and spice to food.
The committee said PAVA can be categorized in the less-lethal munition category. Once fired, the shells burst and temporarily stun, immobilise and paralyse the target (protesters) in a more effective way than a tear gas shell or pepper sprays. The panel noted that PAVA is “bio-safe, 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.