Shooting may have become the biggest medal-winner for the country but when it comes to treating our marksmen with dignity, the less said the better. With the World Championships — a quadrennial event and the biggest event in the life of a shooter after the Olympic Games — scheduled to start in Munich on Thursday (July 29), some 30-odd junior marksmen came to know about their fate only on Monday afternoon.
The Sports Ministry officially cleared the names of 15 marksmen on "full cost to government", while the remaining, who had been camping in Delhi for the last week from places as far as Maharashtra, were told they would have to foot their own bill.
"This is not the way to treat young, talented shooters who have been selected through trials. My child came to know about her fate this afternoon. Now, I have to run around for her air tickets and make other arrangements so that she can be on the first flight to Munich," said the father of a pistol shooter on condition of anonymity.
"The cost of the air tickets, boarding and lodging will come to around Rs 1.5 lakh. How can I foot such a hefty bill," said another father. "The ministry had set 10th position scores at the last World Championships in Zagreb (Croatia) as the criteria for selection of the team for Munich. But tell me, how many seniors can shoot that kind of scores," he said.
"The national camp from July 10-27 (at the Balewadi complex near Pune) was cancelled after the ministry said it won't pay more than Rs 155 per day for lodging and boarding per shooter. And then it sets such a stiff criteria. Balewadi is the only range for now in the country that has computerised targets and scoring machines. They want us to shoot European standard scores (equivalent to 10th position at the previous World Championships) but won't give us even basic facilities, not even a camp," he said.
A senior ministry official, not wishing to be quoted, conceded the team had been cleared on Monday. Asked why the entire team had not been cleared by the government, he said "How can the media judge who should go and who shouldn't. We had set the 10th position scores at the last World Championships as the criteria for selection. All those who met the criteria were selected. This is a very reasonable assessment," he said.
The National Rifle Association of India officials refused to comment on the issue.
A certain Navnath Fartade had become the junior world champion in Zagreb 2006. Today, he is a forgotten entity. When it comes to shooting, it seems to be a case of winning medals despite the system, rather than because of it.