Akash Kujur and Nirmala Singh practise at the makeshift shooting range in Ranchi on Thursday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
For those of you thinking why Jharkhand has a Deepika Kumari but no home-grown Abhinav Bindra, here’s stating the obvious.
Professional marksmanship hasn’t received the kind of corporate or state aid that archery has. So, while Jharkhand’s youths may have the acumen to hit bullseye in the shooting range, they need a shooting range in the first place.
Starting Thursday, Jharkhand Rifle Association began a 15-day training camp for 60 budding shooters on 200sqft terrace of a building near Holy Cross Public School at Burdwan Compound in Ranchi.
Rifle shooting, supposedly a precision sport, needs a closed range so that marksmen are not affected by vagaries of wind, light or weather conditions.
Here, shooters practised in the open terrace on a chilly and windy December morning. Targets, made of tin, were affixed to a plywood board on one end.
Ironically, the state built a state-of-the-art shooting range in Hotwar, Ranchi, before the 34th National Games in 2011, which is now getting rusted in disuse.
According to S.M. Thakur, secretary of Jharkhand Rifle Association, affiliated to Jharkhand Olympic Association, they stopped approaching the sports department for space after facing rejections.
“No one from the state listened to our pleas for space. So whenever someone offers us space for camps or training, we set up a makeshift practice range. We have been training players on this terrace for over a year. For competitions, we approach a school in Namkum where we set up pulley-based targets,” he said.
Does the makeshift range on a building terrace guarantee proper training? “Something is better than nothing. We have quality equipment, imported air rifles and pistols, thanks to our apex body. We set up a 10m makeshift range using thick ply and tin boards so that bullets don’t bounce out,” Thakur said.
Despite rudimentary infrastructure, shooters from humble backgrounds — aiming for a job under sports quota — are driven to excel.
Twelfth-grader Nirmala Singh from Ramgarh said despite practising on the makeshift range, she managed to participate in the GB Moolgaonkar National Shooting Championship in Delhi last November.
“I haven’t won a medal yet. We need more grooming and some state support,” said the girl who hasn’t received her scholarship for two years.
Mandar-based Class VII student Akash Kujur, preparing for the state meet in March 2014, chipped in: “I love the sport. So what if there are problems?”
Intermediate student from Khunti, Sushant Tuti said he would commute to and fro Ranchi for training. “Doing well in professional rifle shooting is a ticket to a job. Many of my shooter friends got jobs in the army and railways. I dream of an army job. And I love the game,” said the teenager.
Olympian gold medallist Bindra is their hero. But the Olympic gold medallist was lucky to have well-off, supportive parents who built a shooting range for him at his Punjab home. Here, the state treats its own stars as stepchildren.