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India drops the chili bomb

What has added spice to India's diet for centuries may be the next addition to its defense arsenal.

Gupta said the technology has already been transferred to private companies, ready to be put into production on demand from internal security agencies. He said it would be used in the “near future.”

In a land where Gandhi espoused non-violence, the chili bomb could be the perfect strike. It is non-lethal and non-toxic and yet, its scorching intensity could paralyze whole groups of people. Unlike the explosives and grenades now in use, the chili bomb would leave no casualties. But a mild chili bomb is enough to induce stinging tears and stun the target.

“It is the perfect solution to our homeland security needs because, after all, we only want to overpower and not kill our own people,” said Gupta. He said the grenades could come in handy in subduing violent mobs and agitators.

The fiery chili could measure about 1,000,000 Scoville Heat Units, the widely used measure of pungency. As a comparison, regular bell peppers measure zero on the scale and scorching jalapeno peppers range in pungency from 2,500 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units.

Researchers in a defense research laboratory in the central Indian city of Gwalior have applied for a patent for the grenades but declined to reveal further details saying it was classified information.

Meanwhile, defense scientists in several other locations are exploring other innovative applications.

In one of the labs scientists discovered its animal repellent properties and have offered the powdered chili to the World Wildlife Fund for testing as an elephant repellent. Even a dusting of the powder on a length of rope kept along the wild elephant trails could keep away the animals. This is particularly useful to India’s army which has camps in remote areas that are regular trampling grounds of elephants.

In the world’s highest battlefields, the chilly heights of the Siachen Glacier in the Himalayas bordering China, the bhut jholokia could bring soldiers a respite from the biting cold and snowy blizzards. A product from the chili has been tested and found to raise the body temperature.