The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) seems to be in a fix about the status of 'civilian category' shooters with the apex body changing its stand about their eligibility norms within 24 hours.
NRAI had issued a circular on Wednesday stating that 'civilian category' shooters participating in the National Championships - underway at the Karni Singh Ranges in Tughlakabad - would not be eligible for national trials or duty-free import of arms and ammunition.
But NRAI made a u-turn on Thursday and said it was open to clearing all hurdles provided there was clarity from the government on the issue.
The NRAI revived the 'civilian category' this year at the National Championships after nearly a decade following requests by upcoming shooters that they were getting little recognition in the face of stiff competition from army and top rung shooters who participate in the 'open category'.
However, the NRAI issued a circular saying, "Shooters participating in the 'open category' will (only) be considered for the purpose of (national trials) and import of weapons on the basis of scores achieved. Shooters participating in civil category will not be considered for trials or weapons import."
This caused heartburn among 'civilian shooters' who felt participating in the National Championships meant little when the only thing at stake were 'civilian medals' which had no significance compared to 'open category' medals.
Even those 'civilian shooters' who managed to shoot the 'Minimum Qualification Scores (MQS)' at the nationals -required to become eligible for importing duty-free arms - felt short-changed.
"I shot well at the nationals, way above the MQS, yet I cannot import because of this strange circular," said a rifle prone shooter. "What are we here for? Just to bag a medal which has no significance and then come back next year to participate again," he said.
HT has a copy of the 2007 'Gazette which says that even 'civilian shooters who have attained the MQS score prescribed by the NRAI constitute 'renowned shots'. Only renowned shooters are eligible to import guns and ammunition duty-free.
Senior NRAI official, Baljeet Singh Sethi, said there were quite a few gray areas despite the Gazette notification. "That's why we issued the circular barring civilians from duty-free imports and national trials. That's why we gave the shooters the option of registering in the 'open category'. We are all for the promotion of the sport. Now that we know about the government notification, we will see that civilian marksmen shooting the MQS are eligible for duty-free imports and national trials."