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Merit doesn’t matter for shooting body

Shooting should be a sport on the rise in India as it might have at least three medal hopefuls for the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2008 01:18 IST
Ajai Masand

India might have at least three medal hopefuls in shooting for this year’s Beijing Olympics, so it should be a sport on the rise in India. However, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) seems to have decided that it cannot let a good thing be.

Take the curious case of Sukhprem Kaur Dhillon. A qualified doctor with the CRPF, Dhillon finished 27th of 31 aspiring coaches after the last Asian Shooting Confederation (ASC) coaches course held here last January. But despite there being a host of others better qualified, she’s been appointed a national coach for the young Indian team bound for Suhl (Germany) on April 28.

HT has copies of the mark sheets concerned. Dhillon barely managed to pass — she got 60 per cent, which is the required passing mark — and the four below her all failed. The exam topper was 98, earned by Ved Prakash, while four other Indians figured in the 90 or plus category. A total of 17 Indians did better than Dhillon, with the others being from the Philippines, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, the UAE and Bangladesh.

NRAI secretary-general Baljeet Singh Sethi told HT she was a qualified coach, but when asked about her qualification marks and position, he said he would have to check. “She is an aspiring coach and will gain experience by going to Suhl… like the youngsters, she will also learn,” said Sethi, adding, “We give a chance to everybody (who has passed the exam).”

So here are two questions. First, why haven't all the other 17 who did better than her been tried out first (a few have)? And two, a bigger question: Why are India coaching assignments being freely distributed to everyone like candy? Shouldn't a national coach have some permanence and be absolutely the best available person or persons?

By the way, Sethi did know Dhillon didn't do well at all.

A copy of the result-sheet in possession of HT and duly signed by him says:'there were nine students who obtained 90 per cent and above marks, 10 students who secured between 80 and 89 per cent, eight students who obtained from 60 to 79 per cent. Four students could not qualify as they secured less than 60 per cent marks."

Sethi's letter further adds: "Tibor Gonczol (former Indian foreign coach) and Szucsak Laszlo (current India foreign rifle coach) took great pains to impart the instructions on the latest shooting techniques. They laid special stress on the spirit of the course, human psychology and mental training etc"

With the course taking into account every aspect of shooting, the logical conclusion is that Dhillon was below par in all aspects of coaching.

Incidentally, Sukhprem Kaur Dhillon's husband, Tejinder Singh Dhillon, also a senior CRPF official, is an NRAI selection committee member and a coach. He is leaving for the ISSF World Cup in Beijing in a couple of days.

In 2003, two junior marksmen levelled allegations against him that he had booked six bags in their names because his luggage exceeded the permissible limit by about 120kgs.

The team was returning from Plzen (Czech Republic) after a junior pistol and rifle competition. HT reported the issue "Shooters sag under weight of coach's baggage" on July 3, 2003.

The NRAI then, instituted an inquiry against the two shooters and banned them from national camps and international tournaments. It was after the intervention of the Delhi HC that they were taken back.