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The deployment of Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) by the Delhi Police has sparked controversy and raised concerns about the use of crowd-control measures during protests and demonstrations in the capital city. LRADs, also known as crowd-control sound cannons, are uni-directional, non-lethal sonic weapons capable of emitting bursts of extremely loud sounds that can potentially damage protesters’ hearing.

The acquisition of LRADs by the Delhi Police dates back to 2013, when reports indicated that the department procured five such devices at a substantial cost of over ?30 lakh each. These LRADs were intended to bolster the police force’s capabilities in managing protests, demonstrations, and other public gatherings across the city.

The recent deployment of LRADs coincides with the arrival of over 200 farmer unions and an estimated one lakh farmers who have converged on Delhi to demand various agricultural reforms, including legal status for and expansion of the minimum support price (MSP) for crops.

LRADs, originally developed by the United States military in the early 2000s, serve as a versatile crowd-control tool. Apart from emitting high-decibel sounds aimed at dispersing crowds, LRADs can also function as microphones and playback devices, adding to their utility as multi-purpose crowd-control weapons.

However, the use of LRADs has drawn criticism from civil rights activists and humanitarian organizations, who raise concerns about the potential for excessive force and the risk of causing harm to protesters, particularly through the infliction of hearing damage.

The deployment of LRADs underscores the evolving nature of crowd-control tactics employed by law enforcement agencies worldwide. While proponents argue that LRADs offer a non-lethal means of crowd dispersal and can help maintain public order in challenging situations, critics highlight the need for greater transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights in the use of such technologies.