Blind target & dark alleys

The machine, which made the clay pigeons used by shotgun marksmen as targets, was bought so that India could save money on importing them, reports Ajai Masand.
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Updated on Feb 21, 2009 06:24 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByAjai Masand, New Delhi

Even while everyone’s wondering about how India will find money to fund the Commonwealth Games, comes a story of how precious funds are wasted.

Nineteen years ago, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) purchased a state-of-the-art Japanese clay-target manufacturing machine and installed it in the Karni Singh Shooting Ranges at an estimated cost of Rs 20 lakh.

The machine, which made the clay pigeons used by shotgun marksmen as targets, was bought so that India could save money on importing them. Imported pigeons were expensive and, according to a top shooter, about 30-40 per cent of those rather fragile pigeons were routinely damaged en route to India from Europe.

Initially, the SAI tried to operate the machine itself but couldn't and handed it over to one Brij Bhan Singh, who produced about 300,000 pieces over a two-year period. The machine could churn out 10,000 pieces a day. After that, doing what they did not earlier, the SAI called for a tender and gave it to a contractor whose rates were apparently slightly lower, but had no idea of the manufacturing process. Shortly thereafter, it was shut down.

The Hindustan Times has learnt that after lying idle for years, the machine was auctioned off to a scrap dealer two day ago. The Karni Singh Range administrator, Satyajit Sankrit, admitted it had been auctioned, but refused to divulge details. “It is an official matter,” he said. Sources told HT though, that the giant machine was sold for around Rs. 1.5 lakh.

In fact, the enclosure it was in — a building spread over more than 3,000 sq. ft especially constructed at a cost of around Rs 10 lakh — will also be bulldozed.

“It’s a shameful waste,” a former shooter said. “If one was to buy it today, it would cost two-three times the price of the 90s. It was handed over to unscrupulous contractors who pilfered parts and sold them. Now they are junking it.”

“We are paying double, or even more, to import them now,” said another marksman. “Clay pigeon events like trap, double-trap and skeet have become so popular in India, yet, we still rely on imports. China used indigenous targets during the Olympics, Thailand and Malaysia both produce their own. And here we are selling the machine off as junk instead of fixing and using it,” said another.

The fate of the two Swiss made Sius Ascor running-target shooting machines is unknown. No one is clear on whether the equipment, worth lakhs, has been sold as junk or simply thrown away.

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