Shooters Detained: No Respect For SportspersonsApart from a host of other reasons, one of the biggest reasons our sportspersons (apart from cricketers) feel alienated and are hence not able to perform to their full potential is the fact that they are treated like dirt back home. The way 12 international level shooters were detained by Customs at the IGI Airport in Delhi on their arrival from Plzen shooting Grand Prix was deplorable. It was 4 am in the morning and the shooters had arrived after a long flight at the end of a gruelling tournament. They had all the necessary papers with them and had not brought any extra equipment. Yet, they were subjected to red tape and made to wait for DRI clearance for 13 long hours. In a shocking turn of events, the official team manager accompanying the team left the airport, leaving the players to fend for themselves.
By Sunil Garodia
The Customs were acting tough because a few national shooters had been found smuggling pistols a few days back. That could have been the reason for a thorough check of the arriving shooters baggage, a more than cursory glance at their papers and perhaps a quick talk with their superiors. But the way the players claim they were treated shows that Indian officialdom has scant respect for those who represent India in international sports.
There should be a thorough enquiry in the episode. The officials found to exceed their brief must be punished. There must be a protocol in place for sportspersons returning after representing India in tournaments abroad. The customs gives clearance to equipment they take with them. If arriving players have the same equipment with them and the necessary papers, they must be cleared immediately. These sportspersons have to get sleep, practice hard and then leave for another tournament. The shooters are scheduled to leave for Munich World Cup which starts on May 17. Who will compensate for the loss of a days practice? Who will bear the cost of missed connecting flights? In addition, they were made to suffer mental trauma on being treated like criminals. This is not done and should not be repeated.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) also has a role to play in this. Their officials should be present at the airport when players return after foreign tournaments to make it easy for them. The NRAI officials have their links and are better placed to force fast decisions than individual players. This is one service they must provide in the interest of the sport. Or are the officials of the body content with getting their pictures clicked with celebrity shooters like Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang? As a first step, the NRAI should blacklist the team manager for deserting the players and ban him for life from being connected with the body in any capacity.