Indian marksmen could miss the first two World Cups this year if the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and the Sports Ministry do not sort out their problems shortly.
It is learnt that the Sports Ministry has written to NRAI president Digvijay Singh saying that if the contentious issue of hosting the inter-university shooting championships is not sorted out, the government will not clear any foreign tours of the NRAI.
Confirming this, NRAI secretary-general Baljeet Singh Sethi said that the letter had been written before the National Games in Guwahati. A meeting between the NRAI and Ministry officials was scheduled for Monday but got postponed. The meeting is most likely to take place on Wednesday.
In the event of the NRAI and the Ministry not arriving at a solution, the shooters will miss the shotgun World Cup in St. Domino (West Indies) from March 18 to 25 and the pistol and rifle World Cup at Fort Bennings (USA) from March 31 to April 7. “Indian women rifle shooters, especially Tejaswini Sawant and Suma Shirur, stand a good chance of qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games at the World Cup in Fort Bennings,” said Sethi.
He added that both the girls had shot exceptionally well at the National Games in Guwahati.
This is perhaps the first time when the World Cup-bound squads are facing such anxious moments. “We are hopeful that things will be sorted out amicably,” said Sethi, and added that if the issue lingered on for some more time, getting dates for procuring visas from the US Embassy could become difficult.
The camp for the two World Cups is already in progress at the Karni Singh Ranges. The Ministry is piqued that the conduct of the inter-university shooting championships by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) has become a bother.
While the NRAI wants to conduct it in a ‘professional’ way, the AIU is opposed to the NRAI interference.
The issue boiled over last year when the Ministry had to intervene in January 2006 and say that, “It is within the domain of the AIU to organise the inter-university tournaments. NRAI will not organise, directly or indirectly, any university tournament... NRAI should confine itself to sending its technical officials”. This year, however, the issue again reared its head before the inter-varsity in Bikaner from January 10 to 13, with the NRAI issuing letters to all state association not to send their shooters to Bikaner, failing which they would be debarred from taking part in National shooting championship.