With barely 50 days to go for the Commonwealth Games, India’s leading shooters are facing their worst-ever crisis for ammunition. Government red-tape is holding up the import of practice ammunition, which is lying in limbo at the Berlin and Milan airports.
India’s shooters won more than half of the country’s medals in the 2006 Melbourne Games and expectations are high this time as well.
Already, the lack of readiness of practice venues has deprived shooters of any home advantage. The fact that they cannot import ammunition because of a delay on the part of the Finance Ministry’s revenue department, which is yet to issue the requisite notification for hassle-free customs duty exemption, is only making matters worse.
"My ammunition is rotting at the Milan airport and I am paying storage to the tune of 70-80 euro (Rs 4,200- Rs 4,800 approx) per day because I haven’t got duty exemption,” said renowned trap marksman and brother of former double-trap world record holder Ronjan Sodhi, Birendeep Sodhi.
"For ammunition I bought for Rs 2.5 lakh, I will end up paying around Rs 6-7 lakh if the notification doesn’t come in the next 10-15 days. This is the case with many others preparing for the CWG,” he said.
The Sports Ministry had in January liberalised the procedures for arms import by renowned shooters. Though the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) and the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) are ready to follow the policy, the Finance Ministry is yet to notify the procedure for self-certification of the duty exemption. This has upset the schedule of the CWG shooters.
"When we approach the Sports Ministry, they say they cannot give the certificate and tell us to wait for the new Revenue Department notification,” said Mansimran Singh, a national-level big-bore shooter.
"I had ordered ammunition from a dealer in Germany and now they are charging to store it. I have also got the DGCA permit for dangerous cargo, the NoC of the DM, Chandigarh and the Transport License from DCP Licensing, to take delivery. But the Revenue Department notification is awaited. When we asked the Sports Ministry to allow us to import in the interim as per the old policy whereby a duty exemption certificate is given by the ministry, the top bosses there are looking the other way. They are just sitting on the files," said Singh.
“While this tussle continues between the Sports and the Finance Ministry, I am suffering as the permissions mentioned above granted to me will expire next month and I will again face the tedious process of reapplying,” said Sodhi.
What is worse is that the NRAI is no longer selling ammunition to shooters due to its ongoing case with Enforcement Department and the source of ammunition for shooters is import. Attempts to contact the Sports Ministry's joint-secretary, I Srinivas failed.