New Delhi: 'Diamonds are a woman's best friend' has been an age-old saying, but have the women found a new friend? 'Yes', says Seema Kharbanda who was among the first few women who bought the Nirbheek revolver to ensure their safety.
Launched a year after the brutal gangrape of 23-year-old paramedic student 'Nirbhaya' in Delhi, Nirbheek is a .32 bore titanium alloy-based revolver which was built as a tribute to the braveheart.
"I feel safe having the revolver with me. It is like an ornament much better than some jewellery for me. While it's scary to carry a piece of jewellery as you might be robbed, carrying a revolver makes you feel confident. When women can spend so much on jewellery, this should also be treated as important and bought as well," Seema said.
Seema Kharbanda, a resident of Delhi, along with Geeta Yadav from Lucknow and Kalpana Pandey from Barabanki were among the first few women who bought the revolver which is manufactured by the Indian Ordnance Factory and was launched in Kanpur in January 2014, almost a year after the brutal Delhi gangrape.
Lucknow's Geeta Yadav also said that she is happy to own the gun and treats it like a prized possession whenever she goes out, especially when alone. "It is easy to use. You also feel strong psychologically when you have the gun. Women should buy it for self defence," she said.
An easy to use revolver, Nirbheek costs Rs 1,40,646 and has a range of approximately 15 metres. "Since the time of its launch, we have sold nearly 300 pieces and we have orders for 350-400 more guns as of now," Joint General Manager Indian Ordnance Factory in Kanpur, DN Verma said.
Verma added that the revolver was manufactured specifically keeping the needs of women in mind. "It weighs 500 grams and is small and handy enough to be kept in a purse," he said.
While there is appreciation for the revolver, questions have also been raised over its high price which makes it a little difficult to own for the common woman. "We are aware that it is high priced but there is not much we can do about it. The production cost comes around Rs 93,000 for us but excise and other duties raise the price to more than Rs 1,40,000," Verma said.
However, he added that there are plans to give out special discounts for women applicants along with plans to launch a cheaper version of the gun which is more affordable. "Special discounts can convince more women applicants to buy the gun for their safety. We are also planning to launch another Mark III revolver which would cost around Rs 85,000-87,000. Though the cost of manufacturing it would be close to Rs 63,000, it would again be the taxes which would raise the prices," he said adding that they are planning to send out a proposal to the government to limit the taxes.
As a revolver shot can be fatal, Verma said that a thorough security check on the applicants is done before handing out the gun. "We send the applications to the licence issuing authority for thorough investigation. But if the confirmation from their side is not given in 30 days, we consider that there is no objection and we process the order. However, we wait for the confirmation report in case of highly sensitive areas like Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand," he added.
According to the women, the revolver ensures their safety and can be kept loaded very quickly for immediate use. As soon as the trigger is pressed, the first chamber turns and the second chamber which has the bullet gets ready for use. The first chamber is kept vacant while loading the gun as a safety measure in case the trigger is pressed by mistake.
The chamber can carry six bullets which can be fired continuously as well as one at a time. Using the gun does not require any special training except for the regular instructions that are given by the Kanpur based factory at the time when it is handed over.
The gangrape of the 23-year-old in 2012 had shocked the country and sent shivers down the spine of one and all. The brutality of the incident also grabbed the attention of the people across all quarters bringing the impertinent reality of an unsafe society for women to the fore.
While the incident had sparked off massive protests, it had also raised questions on the need to empower women in the society to fight such untoward events.