Alternative to pellet guns in Kashmir was approved in 2012, only on paper

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Riot-control equipment less lethal than pellet guns – which have caused grievous injuries to protesters in Kashmir over the last two months – had been approved for acquisition by Jammu and Kashmir police and the Central government in 2012.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the acquisition process got stuck in bureaucratic red-tape, despite a commitment from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had kickstarted the search for less lethal weapons immediately following the protests in 2010. Police had shot dead 110 protestors in the 2010 unrest in Kashmir, the last time such mass protests had broken out in the Valley.
On Monday, a panel set up by Home Minister Rajnath Singh recommended the use of PAVA shells in place of pellet guns.
The committee short-listed the procurement of Nonivamide pellets and grenades, filled with an irritant derived from capsaicin; a foul-smelling repellant liquid known as skunk; directional speakers that can create an acoustic shield to push back crowds; and 12-gauge shells filled with rubber pellets, instead of lead.
But according to the report, in 2012, the same capsaicin-derived pellets, as well as rubber balls that deliver baton-like blows at a distance, were tested in Srinagar at field trials attended by several army and police officials.
But the Ministry of Home Affairs called for a fresh round of tests, the fourth time since 2011, to allay the
concerns of some officers. But the fresh tests were never held and the procurement process never began, says
the report.
Experts in the present MHA panel were quoted as saying that unless a clear acquisition procedure is laid out this time, the new recommendations could end the same way. Training of police and army personnel for its use is one of the challenges, said the experts.
Police and CRPF in Kashmir were, during the tenure of UPA-2, supposed to attend a seven-day course for all units deployed in the region for riot control, called the Joint Law and Order Training Module. But the courses ended in 2014 as elections dawned upon the country, said the report.
In January 2016, two of the officials who had attended the field trials in 2012 called for a restoration of the training schedule. But no action was taken.
“The original idea was that the CRPF’s Rapid Action Force centre in Meerut would become a hub for training instructors,” former CRPF DGP K Vijay Kumar was quoted as saying.
But there is still no course in less-lethal methods of riot control at any police academy in the country, and no standard protocols for the use of the new weapons, said the report.

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