She wants out but an Army’s in the way | india | Hindustan Times
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She wants out but an Army’s in the way

Meena Kumari, who missed a bronze by a hair’s breadth (0.1 points) in the rifle three-position at the recent Korea World Cup, has repeatedly been asking the Army to release her, following her engagement and upcoming marriage. The Army however, has repeatedly turned down the requests, made over the last 10 months. Ajai Masand reports.

india Updated: Jul 11, 2009 00:05 IST
Ajai Masand

Rifle shooter Meena Kumari wants to quit the Indian Army. The Army won’t let her.

The 25-year-old Himachali, who missed a bronze by a hair’s breadth (0.1 points) in the rifle three-position at the recent Korea World Cup, has repeatedly been asking the Army to release her, following her engagement and upcoming marriage. The Army however, has repeatedly turned down the requests, made over the last 10 months.

Meena is on the civil staff of the Establishment Unit in Mhow (Indore).

“The Commanding Officer at the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU), AK Gupta, told me I would never get a No-objection Certificate (NoC) as he feels I will join another institution like Tata or ONGC. As of now, I have no such intention. I want to start a new life. I am still getting a measly Rs. 10,000 salary which is not enough to even meet my shooting needs,” said Meena.

Commanding Officer Gupta told HT from Mhow, “If Meena wants to settle down, we are willing to transfer her to the destination of her choice. But we cannot release her…we have invested so much on her in terms of money and coaching.”

Significantly, he added: “Her release is not recommended in the larger interest of the organisation. We are not going to give her the NoC. Some people are trying to misguide her. Meena is a good shooter and we want her to go to the Olympics.”

Meena though, is having none of it. “This is ridiculous. I have given the Army 64 national and international medals right from when I was an Infantry Kid. The situation in the AMU is bad. Many shooters have tried to leave and been stonewalled. Most are resigned to their fate despite having no future there. But I refuse to bow down.”

She is now taking the Army to court.

A very upset Meena also added: “More than a dozen shooters are being victimised by the unit. The officers fear that if we leave, they will have no medal-winners left to earn them promotions.”

While HT was unable to speak to all she named, one 50m rifle prone shooter admitted she was trying to be released but had been unsuccessful so far. She asked not to be named.

HT is in possession of all the correspondence between Meena --- who has been a regular national camper since 2000 and is part of the 2010 Commonwealth Games core group --- and her military bosses. She was asked to give a three-month notice or pay in lieu of the notice period. She agreed but nothing materialised thereafter.

“When I contacted them last, they told me the department was short-staffed,” said the shooter, a double silver medallist at the Commonwealth Championships.

Incidentally, the Army recently released two shooters, Allan Peoples and Major Reema Singh. Asked why the two ranked shotgun shooters had been given NoCs to join Haryana and MP, Gupta said, “One joined the Territorial Army while the other was allowed to go because her performance was dipping.”

Perhaps Meena’s only hope to get out of the Army, then, is to fire rank bad scores.