India is sending a record number of nine shooters to the Beijing Olympic Games this August. Certainly the standard of the sport has risen by leaps and bounds in this past decade.
But just one look at the Dashmesh Girls School's 50m shooting range in Badal village, Punjab — constructed at a cost of Rs 25 lakh in 1999 and that too under the supervision of a top National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) functionary — would give you a fair idea of the standard of some shooting officials in the country.
According to the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) rules, "Outdoor ranges should be constructed in such a way that the sun is behind the shooter". But this basic norm was flouted — or the supervisor was unaware of it — while constructing the range. Little wonder, the range was scarcely used as direct sunrays made it difficult for the shooters to sight targets. "We couldn't practice at the range because the sunlight used to distract us making sighting of target impossible," said a shooter who practiced there for a while before it was dismantled.
“At times we had to alter our stance to avoid direct sunlight. The sheds put up later too were of no use as their shadow would fall on the starting line.
“What's the fun in pumping so much money into a project which turns out to be of no use," added another local shooter. The state government is constructing two small ranges — 25m and 10m — at the dismantled site and has begun the tendering process for that. Besides another 50m range, just behind the dismantled range, has been proposed. The cost this time is expected to be more than double. The old range was constructed under the supervision of Tejinder Singh Dhillon, Inspector General CRPF, who was then on deputation with the Punjab Police. Interestingly, Dhillon is currently a selection committee member in the NRAI and has made countless international trips with the national team as an official, including the 2006 Asiad and scores of World Cups. Dhillon claims to be an international shooter.
To rectify Dhillon's fault, the NRAI had to rush another official D.K. Shukla. Shukla himself ordered the dismantling, as it did not conform to international standards.
When contacted Shukla replied diplomatically: “Sometime we have to ignore some of the technicalities because of space constraint. We are constructing a 10m and a 25m range at the dismantled site and are building a new 50m range soon.” Dhillon is also currently portraying himself as the leading contender for designing the big bore range for the 2010 Commonwealth Games at the CRPF centre near Manesar, whereas the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Ranges in Tughlakabad master plan — which hosted shooting events during the 1982 Asiad — has the provision for construction of big bore ranges at a much lower cost. So much for blatantly wasting taxpayers' money!