If there is one sporting discipline where our sportsmen have given us much to cheer, it’s shooting. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s silver medal in 2004, Abhinav Bindra’s gold medal in 2008 and now, Gagan Narang bagging bronze earlier this week; this apart our shooters returned with several medals at the Commonwealth Games and World Championships.
Ujwala Dhar, Vice-President of Maharashtra State Rifle Association (MRA), a former shooter herself, tries to explain this surge, “I would shoot from 1973-1986, and had to save my pocket money to buy the pellets because of a lack of parental support. I even joined the National Cadet Corps (NCC) as they would take care of ammunition supply and travel. But today, after our shooters have won at the Olympics, parents are encouraging their children to take up the sport. In fact, parents seem more eager than the children.
” She feels that this might also be because the Education Board grants 25 marks to students who reach the interschool or state level, under the Sports Quota. “But the rule has changed now and the government will only give extra marks to a student involved in sports, if he or she has failed. This might reduce the numbers,” she believes. The MRA had conducted an inter-school state level shooting competition at Pune where they were expecting around 300 students to participate but had almost 700 entries last year. Also, the government provides several financial benefits to national level winners, which helps participants.
“It is an expensive sport as both the pellets and the bullets cost a lot. The cost of air pistols start at Rs 50,000 while air rifle costs begin at R1 lakh. Also, these need to be imported, as the ones manufactured here are not accurate and affect results. Still, several people are taking up the sport,” says Dhar. She adds that Pune has the best shooting range in India; Narang runs it along with India’s official coach Pawan Singh.
Shooting ranges in Mumbai
MRA range, Worli Seaface 24932736
Ruia College, Matunga 24103327
Rizvi College, Bandra 26480348
Vile Parle 9320021010
Shivaji Park 24465877