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Shooters suffer as officials grope in dark

other Updated: May 28, 2009 00:32 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times
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The government wants to give import relaxation to air weapon shooters in bits and pieces, or so it seems. After clearing the way for the import of air rifles and air pistols by waiving off the duty and licence two years back, it abolished the import duty on lead air pellets a few months back after HT highlighted the plight of shooters and the acute shortage of the commodity in the country.

But it has failed to understand that abolishing the 35 per cent import duty is of little use when the pellets cannot be imported as they are still under the ‘restricted’ categories list.

Rupesh Kochhar, a promising air rifle marksman of the Uttar Pradesh State Rifle Association (UPSRA), said: “I recently imported a few boxes of pellets by courier from the United States, but when a similar consignment came via the Postal Customs, it was confiscated. Why this double standard?

“If it’s a restricted item, how come so many marksmen are able to import it through the Mumbai Postal Customs without a hitch,” he asked.

Producing the invoice and the consignment that came via courier, he said: “Initially, we used to pay 35 per cent import duty to get the pellets, now there is no duty and no pellets either. Even the officials are not aware of the law.

“When the import duty on air weapons was removed, the notification also said that no customs clearance was required. But in the case of pellets, they have left out the clause,” he said.

It’s ironic that despite the import duty being waived off, there are hardly any shooters importing the lead pellets. In fact, some say that the crisis has got worse. “Initially, we used to get pellet boxes for Rs 500 in black, now it’s much more,” said another shooter.

CB Bhatia, Assistant Commissioner, Postal Customs, said: “The .177 mm pellets are still a restricted item although the duty had been waived off.

“The shooters still have to secure an import licence from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), which comes under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.”

When told that Mumbai Customs was clearing the commodity and shooters were getting it through courier by only showing the invoice, he said, “I am not concerned. I will only go by the government notifications.

“The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) should approach the Sports Authority of India and the DGFT for the rules amended,” he said.

With Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang becoming icons, it’s strange why the government is creating roadblocks for other aspirants.