More than 700 para shooters have been caught in the crossfire between the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) and the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), and are unable to decide which tournament to participate in following different sets of competition circulars being issued by the respective bodies.
PCI Secretary General Gursharan Singh issued a warning on Saturday, saying NRAI inviting para shooters in its competitions was an “unauthorised” act.
Para shooting in the country is governed by PCI, which in turn is affiliated with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). At the international level, para shooters compete under the aegis of World Shooting Para Sport (WSPS).
NRAI, on the other hand, is affiliated with the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF), which in turn is governed by International Olympic Committee (IOC).
PCI was taken by surprise when the NRAI issued a series of circulars calling on para shooters to participate in the Zonal/GV Mavlankar Championship held under its aegis.
The latest flash-point in the already strained relation is an NRAI circular asking para shooters to register for the 42nd North Zone Championship in small bore rifles to be held from August 16-24.
The PCI, subsequently, announced on July 28 the fourth Zonal (North, South, East, West, Central) Para Shooting Championship for Rifle/Pistol/Shotgun events in Delhi from September 8-12, leaving more than 700 para shooters in a fix which tournament to compete in, considering they have to pay huge registration fees.
“Obviously, my suggestion to our shooters is they should compete only in competitions organised under the aegis of PCI. We are the ones who are authorised to give certification and verification (of level of disability),” Gursharan told PTI.
“If the NRAI is organising competitions for para shooters it is completely unauthorised. We will issue a circular (asking shooters not to participate in NRAI events) shortly,” added Gursharan.
“Despite we writing to the NRAI (to not meddle in our affairs), if they still do such things, it means they are not showing responsibility (responsible behaviour). They are willing to go to any extent (to take control of para shooting), which is illegal,” he said.
“If they (NRAI) want to organise para tournaments, they (NRAI) should take NOC (no-objection certificate) from us (PCI), or they associate with us in organising tournaments, or send their observers,” he said.
“If you look at the international organisational structure too, the NRAI is governed by the ISSF and para shooting is governed by WSPS. So, NRAI has no locus standi to unilaterally organise para events,” added Gursharan.
The NRAI had “unilaterally” removed para shooting from all its competitions, including national championships, in 2019. That move had left more than 200 para shooters in the lurch ahead of the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
The NRAI had then said that since there’s a separate organisation -- PCI -- which controls para-shooting activities, including the selection of teams, it was removing para shooting from its ambit, though it had been hosting the sport for the specially-abled marksmen for more than 25 years.
However, on June 8, a letter from NRAI to PCI stated that it had decided to restart the para events “during State Championship/Pre-National and National Championship”, ruffling the national para body’s feathers.
“When para shooting was unilaterally thrown out by NRAI, we and the Sports Authority of India tried several times to convince them not to do so. Now we have everything, we have created infrastructure, got sponsorship,” said PCI technical committee chairman for shooting sport JP Nautiyal.
“Barring the right to import arms and ammunition, which is with NRAI, we have managed and excelled in the these last four years after we were thrown out,” he added.
“The NRAI can help para shooting by assisting us with procuring arms and ammunition, co-ordinating with us, but we will not allow them to takeover para shooting,” added Gursharan.
Interestingly, NRAI is the sole authorised body for importing arms and ammunition in the country, and the PCI (para shooters) rely entirely on them to get their guns and pistols for competitive purposes.
The main concern among para shooters is if they don’t compete in tournaments organised by NRAI, it could impede or hinder their import of arms and ammunition under the “Renowned Shot” category, as the National Shooting Federation is the sole authorised body to give them licence to import.
A “Renowned Shot” is a shooter who has shot a “Minimum Qualification Score” (MQS) in national championships to become eligible for import.
Asked if NRAI shouldn’t be assisting PCI in procuring arms for Renowned Shots, NRAI Secretary General Sultan Singh had said earlier, “I can’t take that responsibility. The question is, it (application authorising import) has to go under my signature. Being the only authorised body (to import ammunition), we (NRAI) cannot delegate the government’s powers, which have been given to us.” PCI president Deepa Malik couldn’t be reached for her comments.
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