Spray it for safety
- Women, traders and even cops opt for chilli pepper gun
NISHA LAHIRI , The Telegraph, Kolkata June 14, 2005
It’s a self-defence weapon alright, and an effective one at that, but it doesn’t kill, neither does it maim for life.
Pepper spray has been around in the West for a while now, but is still a fairly new concept in India. However, even in Calcutta it’s catching on, with crime on the rise and women and businessmen increasingly becoming targets of attacks.
Calcuttans have been grabbing Cobra cans, stuffed with oleoresin capsaicin, the ingredient that makes red chilli pepper hot.
“Burrabazar businessmen and models, students and airline officials, corporate employees working late hours, residents of Salt Lake and the Bypass — they’ve all bought Cobra just to be safe. Some have even bought them for their drivers. There are also housewives from places around Calcutta who do regular train travel,” says Lynette Hilt, who sells the aerosol cans here.
AAX Global is the “only one with a licence” to manufacture the chilli pepper spray in India. Bangalore-based Rana Singh of AAX came up with the product. Since 2002, the market has expanded around the country. Delhi is the biggest buyer. And although the price of Rs 499 makes it a rather expensive product, over 500 cans have already been sold here, adds Hilt.
“Although I had relocated down South for the past two years, my mother was selling them here. Now that I’m home, the interest has rekindled. People call me to find out if I’m back for good, and the next question is inevitably ‘have you got Cobra with you?’,” says the “Cobra lady”.
The sister of musician Lew Hilt has to register every item sold and the buyer has to produce identification. A licence is not required to carry the can under the Arms Act, because it is needed only for firearms.
The can is small (35 g, 55 ml) and easily carried. The chilli powder used in the spray comes from Mexican chilli, brought in from the US.
A half-second burst can hurt up to 10 people, going as far as six feet. It is “at least 10 times stronger” than regular chilli powder and the effect is immediate.
The single mother has high hopes for the future of the chilli pepper spray. “It is constantly upgraded and improved — more pressurised cans, better nozzle, more intense, etc. In fact, we have come up with a special, larger-sized version for police officers,” she explains.
“It gives you a psychological advantage. One of my clients, a young Sardarni, simply threatened a gang of goons on a train once with the can, and they left her alone. You don’t even have to use it to be safe,” she adds. “A police officer in Howrah had wanted to buy about 50 cans from me for his juniors. Mothers buy them for themselves and their teenage daughters, brothers buy them for their sisters as Rakhi gifts. It makes you feel safe.”