A bullet-proof crowd control vehicle developed by the Laser Science and Technology Centre (LASTEC), a lab under the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), that can immobilise crowds of thousands by blinding their eyes for few seconds without causing permanent damage, was on show at the 106th Indian Science Congress.
Although it was developed three years ago, and has been demonstrated by the DRDO to security forces including the Army’s Northern Command, it has not been deployed anywhere. “The system employs an intense green laser and illuminates a large swathe with a diameter of 24 mt at the target to cover a large section of crowds, with a set of mirrors oscillating at fast repetition rate. The intense bright radiation causes credible glare in subject eyes leading to immediate but temporary functional capability degradation,” said Manmohan Singh, scientist, Laser Science and Technology Centre (LASTEC), DRDO while explaining the features of the vehicle.
Known as the vehicle-mounted laser dazzler (VMLD) and developed by the DRDO in collaboration with Mahindra, this riot control mechanism is a “non-lethal anti-personnel weapon system for crowd control applications and configured around a light armoured vehicle to provide closer and quicker reach towards target,” said another DRDO officer.
The VMLD is equipped with cutting-edge laser guns that when strikes the eyes, results in temporary blindness, rendering the miscreants immobile for few seconds.
It costs around Rs 70 lakh-Rs 50 lakh for the vehicle, and Rs 20 Lakh for the laser system mounted on it. The official said it would enable just one person to bring under a control a mob of as many as 10,000 people. The vehicle could cover targets in a range of upto 400 mt, the official said, and was ideal for deployment in Kashmir, where hundreds have been injured and many blinded by the use of pellet guns by security forces to control large riotous crowds.
“We have given the demonstration to Northern Command last year and they liked the vehicle very much but they fear that deployment of it may increase public anger in Kashmir Valley,” he said.
Until now, the only outing it has had is at the Republic Day and Independence Day processions in New Delhi. DRDO Chairman G Satheesh Reddy told The Indian Express that the vehicle was waiting to be deployed. “It has already been demonstrated to the security forces and it could be very useful for any kind of mob or crowd control by any force at any place,” he said, but added that deployment was not under the purview of DRDO.