DRDO develops 'mirchi bomb' inspired from the spicy bhut jolokia

'Mirchi bomb' can be used in different situations of low intensity conflict

mirch-bomb S. Datta of the DRL with 'mirchi bomb' products | Rekha Dixit

Red, hot and spicy. The famous raja chilli or bhut jolokia of the northeast has inspired a weapon, the chilli grenade or mirchi bomb.

Defence Research Development Organsiation (DRDO), which had first identified bhut jolokia as the hottest chilli in the world, had been working for some years to tap the fire of the chilli.

DRDO's Defence Research Laboratory (DRL) in Tezpur has now come up with a range of devices that can be used in different situations of low intensity conflict. From chilli spray, which can be kept in a woman's purse for self defence to grenades that can be lobbed to control crowds or manage hostage situations, there are now a range of products—a mirchi bomb for every situation.

Speaking to THE WEEK, S. Datta of the DRL said the active ingredient in bhut jolokia, capsaicin, was initially extracted from chilli. However, it was not easy to scale up production. Bhut jolokia is a sensitive plant which only grows in exacting conditions of soil, temperature and rainfall, to yield the kind of fire that once put it at the top of the Scoville scale, which is used to measure the fire in chilli. Because of the difficulty in getting a steady and large supply of capsaicin from the plant, the laboratory now bases its products on the chemical alone, which is not extracted from the plant, but has the same chemical formula. “Locals burn dried pods of these chillies to keep wild elephants away. That is how we got the idea,'' said Datta.

The product was first conceptualised in 2010 and now the lab has it in a range of packaging. The larger grenades can be lobbed into crowds to control mobs. They also come with a thin hose which can be pushed under a door into a room with hostages and abductors. Several state police forces have tested the products, so has the National Security Guard (NSG), said Datta. The aim was to make a weapon that would only target the ocular system and not the respiratory system. The product, which comes as a non explosive, eco-friendly and non-toxic stream, has minimal side effects, which go away within a few hours.

Datta said though bhut jolokia has slipped several ranks on on the hottest chillies of the world list, most of the newer entries are commercially grown hybrid varieties, unlike the bhut jolokia, whose fire was naturally occurring and not enhanced by cultivars.

Whether the hottest in the world or not, it certainly has inspired some hot bombs.