India have produced many stars in cricket but have just a handful in other sports - shooting being one of those.
From Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's silver in Athens (2004) to Abhinav Bindra’s gold in Beijing, shooting has been lifted to lofty standards at the Olympic stage, but is it a sport for the masses?
Not only the aforementioned duo won Olympic glory for India, they put the sport of shooting on a different pedestal, from where they inspired a number of youngsters to take up the sport as career.
After Rathore and Bindra won India Olympic medals, carrying forward the brilliant show by shooters, Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang did the country proud at London Olympics 2012.
Vijay won silver medal in the individual 25-metre rapid fire pistol event while Narang, who was the first Indian to qualify for the London Olympics, claimed the bronze medal in the men's 10 m Air Rifle event.
Another shooter who has burst onto the scene is Jitu Rai. From a potato farmer in Nepal to winning India’s first Gold medal in the 2014 Asian Games, Rai has become a real medal prospect for Rio Olympics.
Today, shooting has emerged as a popular and one of the most sought after events in Indian sports thanks to the scintillating show by these men. But despite all the laurels and recognition, the sport is unable to strike a chord with the young generation. Let us find out why.
Many say it is an expensive sport, some say it is a sport meant for the elite class and some say it's the government that is dashing the hopes of promising shooters.
IBNLiveSports paid a visit to Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range in Delhi and interacted with some young shooters.
Kunal Chahar, who started his career in shooting two months back, didn’t sound satisfied.
"I am training at the Karni Singh Shooting range from the last two months. I am taking coaching under BS Sodhi sir. I admire him and he is my icon. I am doing trap shooting here but certainly, it is a sport for the elite class people.
"I am lucky that I am able to bear it [training cost] and I thank my parents. I spend Rs 9,000 per day for shooting training. I give Rs 4500 for coaching and Rs 4500 for cartridges. We have to have our own guns that are very expensive. And I also give a certain amount to shooting range where I practice. A normal person can’t afford this much. But yes, if you are from army, then you get full support from government", Kunal said.
"The worst part in India is that we can't import guns. I want to give a big example here. Last year, I went to Italy for training. I bought a gun worth Rs 4 lakh there. When I came back, I inquired about the price of the same gun in India. It was worth Rs 12 lakh. I was shocked with such a huge difference. Do you think a person who wants to make his career in shooting can spend this much amount?" Kunal added.
"For this I just want to request the Indian government to provide ammunition and we don’t have to get them imported, because the duty just too much. If they can lessen the duty, it would be really appreciable", he said.
This was the story of Kunal, who belongs to a rich family and can afford his training expenses and pursue his passion with confidence. But what about those who want to be a shooter and are passionate about the sport but the 'money factor' pulls them down?
We met one such person at the Karni Singh Shooting Range.
Deepak Rana (name changed), a Nagloi resident, did his schooling from a government school and then enrolled himself into BA programme (correspondence) just to give full attention to his passion – Shooting.
Rana, born in a middle class family, will be quitting the sport in just 3-months time. The reason is he can’t afford it.
"I admire Gagan Narang sir. I opted for this sport because I really like this. I also have a dream of winning a medal for my country some day but I can’t really afford it. I will now pursue my career in MBA. This sport is too expensive", Rana said.
Lastly, IBNLive Sports interacted with an army man at the shooting range.
The man, who didn’t want to be named, considered himself lucky to be in the job due to which he could pursue his career in shooting.
"Honestly, I am lucky that I am in the army. They are affording all my expenses. They take care of me. From ammunition to cartridges, everything is provided by Army", he said.
However, veteran shooter Samresh Jung, who won five gold medals in a row in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, said the expenses depend on which event you are opting for.
"I don’t think so shooting is meant for the elite class. I don’t belong to elite class. I am a living example in front of you. I am not from a very rich family. And if we see the recent medal-winning shooters, I don’t think they also belong to an upper middle class family. Some of them are from middle class families too. People who have passion and something in them, they can always manage," said Samresh.
"If you opt for Air Rifle or Air Pistol shooting, they are affordable. You can buy a pistol easily and for a rifle you need to spend between Rs. 1 lakh and Rs. 2 lakh. When you start training with pellets, a tin costs you Rs. 500. You can start your training with that. You always go from down to up. You start training, then go for nationals. After that you join a centre. Once you are trained, the centre provides you some of the facilities. One can avail them," said Samresh, explaining the reasons why shooting is not expensive to take up.
Samresh has represented India in two Commonwealth Games – 2002 (Manchester) and 2006 (Melbourne). He won two gold medals in the men's free pistol pairs and in the open event of 25 m standard pistol pairs. He won five Gold, one silver and one bronze at Melbourne CWG.
"I know it is difficult for the beginners. The have to spend money in the beginning (depending on the event they are opting for) but once they are the part of the National squad, things become pretty smooth. This is how things have been happening", he said.
Samresh also stressed on the craze of shooting in India.
"Lack of facilities is the main reason and the other is guns are considered as an offence to keep in our country. The equipments are not easily available due to safety reasons. The reason behind that is the licence. Getting a licence for a gun is a daunting task", the vetran shooter signed off.