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Gun import: SAI off target

Shooters may be raking in the medals but no arms have been imported in 15 long years, writes Ajai Masand.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2006 03:10 IST

Indian shooters may be gunning down gold and hogging glory all around the world, but back home things still look bleak and dismal.

Strange as it may sound, but the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has hardly - or maybe not at all - imported any pistols or rifles in the past decade-and-a-half for its training centres across the country.

"It's true. I haven't seen any fresh consignment of pistols or rifles in the last 15 years," says national coach Sunny Thomas.

"Since the time I took over as the national coach in 1993, I haven't seen any new gun being imported. probably no gun was imported after the 1982 Asian Games," said Thomas from Bangalore, where the national camp for the Doha Asian Games is on.

"Every year, we place our requirements with the SAI but I haven't seen a new rifle at any of the ranges."

"In fact, it is high time that the imports came through as many of the rifles, guns and pistols at the ranges are more than 20 years old… With technology changing so rapidly, we feel we are in the dark ages."

SAI Director-General RP Watal said he was aware of this but "one should understand that the SAI is not running a training centre (STC) in shooting".

"Nor is shooting part of the Special Area Games (SAG). We do fund legitimate sportspersons. But yes, we haven't imported guns for a long time," Watal said.
"It (the issue) was brought to my notice, but one should understand that there are a lot of issues involved, like procuring licences etc."

Strange, considering the fact that shooting indeed is being looked at as an Olympic medal-winning sport. Yet Indian shooters are having to make do with archaic guns.

Running target: Run over!

Even as rifle marksmen are running riot, running target equipment worth lakhs is literally rotting at the Karni Singh Ranges in Tughlakabad for the last six-seven years.

"We had brought it to the notice of the SAI and it was brought into operation for a few days and again set aside," said Thomas.

"In fact, I had also given the quotations to the SAI for import of rifles for the same, but nothing happened. Given the fact that our rifle shooters are exceptionally good, some of them could move to running target which, though not an Olympic sport, is a potential medal hope in the Asian Games and World Championships," says rifle coach Laszlo Scuczak of Hungary.