Thursday, September 15, 2016

Used in Kashmir, pellet guns' specifications, prices are "sensitive defence info", can't be disclosed: Govt of India

By Our Representative
Apparently fearing international fallout, the Government of India has rejected a right to information (RTI) plea seeking specifications, characteristics, pricing and sales data about anti-riot weapons and copies of reports that indicate the efficacy of such weapons and their impact on human beings if targeted.
The RTI plea, made by Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), has been rejected on the ground that it is "sensitive defence information", hence cannot be disclosed. Nayak received the reply of denying information from Khadki Ordnance Factory (KOF), Pune, which is under the Union Defence Ministry.
Wonder Nayak in an email alert sent to Counterview, “How anti-riot weapons and ammunition, used internally, amount to "defence information" is perplexing to say the least. I had not asked information about weapons and ammunition used to defend the country against external aggression.”
The refusal comes close on the heels of news that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s “directive” of using pellet guns in the rarest of rare situations seems to have no takers among paramilitary Central Reserve Police force (CRPF) and police, who are allegedly firing pellets at people even when they are in their bedrooms or kitchens in Kashmir valley.
It also comes following refusal of the Government of India to allow a UN Human Rights Council team to visit the valley on the ground that "the Indian democracy has all that is required to address legitimate grievances”. 
“The queries were about weapons and ammunition used against citizens within the country”, Nayak says, adding, “Even this information has been denied by invoking Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act without showing how India's 'security interests' would be prejudicially affected by such disclosure.”
“Even more puzzling is the denial of all information on the ground that it is in the nature of commercial confidence, trade secrets and intellectual property whose disclosure may result in harm to the competitive position of a third party”, says Nayak.
In fact according to Nayak, “The OFB's website contains information about the characteristics and specifications of even defence equipment, let alone civilian trade items like revolvers and sporting rifles which their units manufacture.”
This information provided on the website also relates to specifications about mortars, 155mm guns, machine guns and the like, Nayak notes, adding, it also contains information about grenades and rocket bombs.
“Strangely, there is more proactive disclosure about the specifications of defence equipment than anti-riot weapons and ammunition which are used against citizens within the country”, the senior activist comments.
“When the Government has already disclosed the exact number of pellet cartridges and tear gas shells used to quell the violent protests in Kashmir before the High Court, there is no reason why sale price, quantum of sale and efficacy reports cannot be shared with the people proactively”, he adds.
The refusal comes despite the fact that the security forces have reportedly told the Jammu and Kashmir High Court that 3,000 pellet bearing cartridges and 8,650 tear gas cannisters have been used to disperse the Kashmir valley protesters between July-August, which has led to the death of 80 persons so far. Ambulances carrying the injured also bore the brunt of the violence. Hundreds of security personnel also uffered serious injuries, while on duty.
Already, the authorities are discussing alternative methods of dealing with violent mobs to minimise injury. The CRPF has told the J&K High Court that given the dynamic and mobile situation on the ground it would be difficult to follow standard operating procedures (SoPs) for crowd control issued by the Government. 
The main force in the valley, it said that the use of pellet guns is an “approved method” according to the SoPs for crowd control, claiming, if pellet guns are done away with, they will have to resort to firing bullets which may hike up the casualty figures.

No comments: