India launched NIDAR – the world’s lightest revolver – earlier this week. Weighing just 250 gms and built with light aluminium alloy, the Ishapore Rifle Factory near Kolkata can claim credit for bringing India into the record books of hand gun making.
- Calibre: .22
- Weight: 250 gms
- Range: 7 meters
- Cylinder Capacity: 8 rounds
- Barrel length: 40.3 mm
- Overall length: 140 mm
- Action: Single and Double
NIDAR has been positioned as a self-defense handgun, suitable for both women and men. Its small size fits into a palm, while its light weight makes it easy to carry in a pocket or bag. The .22 Calibre can be lethal at short ranges but overall the gun is better positioned to injure if it strikes any non-critical body part, thereby making it a lesser lethal weapon for self-defence.
Speaking to the media, factory in-charge PK Agarwal spoke of the need for women to carry a firearm for self-defence purposes and said that NIDAR could be the answer for women who travel a lot and for whom safety is an issue.
NIRBHEEK – .32 Revolver launched earlier
It may be recalled that in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya tragedy, where a girl student was brutally gang raped in a moving bus, there were calls for women’s safety and the need to arm women, especially those who need travel out after dark. NIRBHEEK – a .32 Calibre revolver, was launched on 14 January 2014 by Ishapore Rifle Factory and met with mixed response. The gun was expensive and relatively bulky.
Names of both the handguns have been symbolic as they are synonymous with Nirbhaya, meaning ‘the fearless one’. The name was given to Jyoti Singh, the gang rape victim, for her brave resistance and sheer will to survive.
NIDAR vs NIRBHEEK
NIDAR scores over NIRBHEEK on several features that makes it a better option for self-defense.
- It weighs only 250 gms vs 500 gms for NIRBHEEK.
- It is made of low cost lightweight aluminium alloy; NIRBHEEK is made of more expensive Titanium alloy.
- It has a 8 round cylinder as compared to 6 round of NIRBHEEK.
- It costs just Rs 35,000 as compared to Rs 1,22,360 for NIRBHEEK.
Should citizens be armed?
India is not known for its gun making skills, especially handguns. So when it launched NIDAR, it raised more than just an eyebrow, it started a debate on the need and efficacy of promoting the use of hand guns among citizens.
PK Agarwal spoke of the need for women to carry a weapon at night. While that will certainly enhance the safety aspect, where and how could she travel with a handgun in her bag? All the malls, cinemas, hotels, airports, railways stations and metros, do not allow firearms within their premises, even if they happen to be licensed. So even if a woman were to venture out with a handgun at night, there are few public places where she will be allowed to carry it.
An argument has been made that no cabbie would dare threaten or misbehave with a woman passenger if he knew she carried a handgun. Fallacious argument. Firstly, how would the driver know that the woman passenger is carrying a gun in her bag unless she tells him so? Which brings up another important issue.
A woman’s licensed weapon could actually become a liability and a reason of threat to her life, if anti-social elements were to discover a woman was carrying a gun. A weapon is any day more attractive to a thief than say a mobile or her purse and he won’t hesitate to use violence to acquire it.
What about a situation of road rage? Say, a man carrying NIDAR has an altercation on the road, as is very common these days, and results in a fist fight. So if a person carrying a gun opens fire, it may well have dangerous consequences, whereas in a similar situation and without a weapon, it may be restricted to just a fist fight. At least, a life doesn’t get threatened. So how advisable is it to carry a gun and what if many more were to do so as well?
Now, what about a situation where one keeps the gun at home. What are the chances of your child or teenager getting access to the gun, again with dangerous consequences? What if the teenager happens to have a volatile temperament or is hyper-sensitive, as many are these days. Then, is keeping a gun at home a good idea, and at what cost? Is India ready for the consequences?
Fortunately, India does not have a gun culture as the United States, and therefore its citizens are relatively safer as compared to those in the US. Licensed or otherwise, when guns get carried around by people on the streets, it results in increased violence in society, as can be seen on the streets of Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and even Pakistan. Is India ready to walk that path?
Women’s safety is paramount but is NIDAR the answer?
India has done a great job in developing a small weapon that does fulfill a need, but is this the best answer? The idea is to develop a minimum level of deterrence against an aggressor and there are solutions like pepper-sprays or the more effective – Stun gun, that delivers upto 50,000 volts on contact. Then there is the Taser – developed in the US for use by Police and other Law Enforcement agencies. These are all solutions that act as a deterrent but are not lethal.
The nation has a responsibility to ensure its streets are safer, especially for women, but handing them guns is certainly not the answer. India has to seek a more suitable and non-lethal technology for addressing women’s, and for that matter, men’s safety.
With attractive features and price, NIDAR offers great potential for export to countries that have a need for such weapons but whether we need to have NIDAR on our streets, is another question.