The sports fraternity, especially target shooters, could face severe financial burden if the civil aviation ministry does not rethink its recent decision, which would allow airlines to charge extra for ferrying sports equipment carried by athletes as their baggage.
Almost all the airlines on the domestic circuit will start charging extra on weapons (firearms) shooters carry, and the new policy could put extra burden on them. Delhi-based pistol shooter, Samresh Jung, said, “The new policy will harm the sports fraternity of the country.”
Jung, who generally competes in four pistol events at the national level and pays Rs. 5000 per weapon, says it will discourage players. “Top marksman prefer travelling by air; it saves time to competition venues,” he said, adding travelling long distance by other modes of transport would rob athletes of vital training sessions.
Woman pistol shooter Rahi Sarnobat, who recently won gold in the World Cup, has sent a letter to civil aviation minister, Ajit Singh, requesting him to reconsider the decision. Anjali Bhagwat and Tejaswini Sawant, both leading rifle shooters, have come out to support of Rahi.
In a press release, Rahi, Anjali and Tejaswini, along with officials of the Maharashtra Olympic Association, have demanded that extra charges be immediately withdrawn. Their contention is that athletes travel by air to manage their training and competition schedules.
Need for travel
There are at least three national-level competitions besides coaching camps that top shooters need to attend.
Their letter states that a lot of athletes would be forced to travel by train, even if it means wastage of time and energy. “Hence, it is requested to withdraw this additional charge on sports equipment.”
Copies of their appeal have been sent to Union ministers hailing from Maharashtra — Sharad Pawar, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Praful Patel —besides former Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi.