Elite shooters may run out of ammo in 2 mthsUpdated: Mar 28, 2020 00:20 IST
New Delhi: It’s the question almost every top shooter in India is asking amid the pandemic: do they have enough ammunition to last the crisis? And will they be able to get fresh supplies even after the virus has passed, considering all their ammunition comes from Italy, Germany or the UK?
With almost all of Europe in lockdown, the supply of arms and ammunition for sports shooting has also come to a standstill; most shooters have no more than two months worth of stock.
Despite the Olympic Games being postponed, national shotgun coach Mansher Singh says this is a crisis for elite shooters.
“There’ll be a shortfall in India for at least six months before fresh stocks arrive,” says the former national trap champion and Commonwealth Games gold medallist. “That is if these European countries start manufacturing ammunition by June-end.”
Shooters like Sanjeev Rajput, who has secured a Tokyo Olympic quota place, and Shreyasi Singh, the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist in women’s trap, feel the crunch could go into early 2021.
“I am very tense with this situation,” says Rajput. “My ammo stock will last another two months. For us, the biggest thing is the Olympics, and we have to start preparations for next year now. Shooters need their specific batch of ammunition. Shooters go to factories (abroad), test their barrels, and then they place (ammo) orders there, come back and like to import that particular batch. Now all that has stopped.”
Shreyasi’s plans of importing ammo from Italy is also on hold. “Under the current scenario, I might have to depend on the federation (National Rifle Association of India, NRAI),’’ she says.
The shortage may not end before January 2021.
“Till December 2020-January 2021, we will be struggling to get ammunition for our shooters to train the way they would like to,” says Mansher. “Italy shut shop about a month back. We spoke to the manufactures and they said they can’t do anything. A lot of shooters also suffered because the flight cancellations (from Europe) happened all of a sudden. Now the stocks that should have been with Indian shooters by now are lying with the manufacturers. For now, it’s all crisis management for the marksmen.”
Kolkata-based Mehuli Ghosh, the 2018 World Championships silver medallist in 10m air rifle, uses a Walther gun, which comes from Germany.
“Not just her gun, she uses a lot of equipment that comes from Europe,” says her coach Joydeep Karmakar, who finished fourth in 50m rifle prone at the 2012 London Olympics. “At the best of times it takes between 20 days to two months. Things being what they are in Europe now, it could easily take double the time.”
With India not having a single company manufacturing competitive-grade arms and ammunition, including lead pellets for air rifles, nearly all marksmen are dependent on Europe for their supplies. For shotgun, Italy is the go-to place, while for rifle, it is UK or Germany. “Nearly 95 per cent of the top (shotgun) shooters are dependent on Italian companies,” says Prithviraj Tondaiman, India’s leading shotgun marksman. “Italians are also skilful stock-makers. I would say 98 per cent of them are based in the country and take care of the best of shotgun shooters in the world.”
The shooters’ anxiety is being compounded by the paperwork that goes into importing ammunition. When imports open, they anticipate a mad rush.
“Most rifle shooters import from UK,” Rajput says. “We give an application to the NRAI stating our requirement along with an affidavit. But before that we have to ensure our arms licence has the permission to import. The NRAI gives us the import permit. The company (in UK) then applies for an export permit with the local police which comes in three weeks. The ammunition is then loaded onto a flight or shipped and we collect it here. It’s a tedious process. With the lockdown, every process has come to a standstill. This will certainly affect training of a majority of shooters. Since I come under TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme), I can ask NRAI for some ammo.”
For those not under TOPS, it’s the start of a big struggle.
With inputs from Dhiman Sarkar