Ranges and tempers stretched to the limit

Ranges and tempers stretched to the limit

  
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Shotgun shooters involved in brawl at Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range.

It doesn’t get scarier than this. Two shotgun shooters coming to blows over a trivial matter in one of the Capital’s most high-security zones – the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Ranges in Tughlakabad — on Sunday has raised an alarm over the safety of those who come to train and excel at the iconic ranges.

This is probably the first such episode in the history of the Ranges — built for the 1982 Asian Games and later renovated for the 2010 Commonwealth Games — that has got the national campers, coaches, support staff, and those who visit the venue under the ‘pay and play’ scheme, worried.

With live ammunition and shotguns — trap, double trap and skeet – all around, things can quickly go out of hand in the event of frayed tempers.

Two shooters had an argument over the number of rounds one could shoot in one go. With it being a Sunday and the shotgun ranges already stretched because of the huge number of marksmen vying for slots on just one range — as the other ranges were being used by the national campers –, things came to a boil.

Angry scenes were witnessed with one shooter seen punching the other (see video) even as fellow marksmen tried to intervene near the firing stations. Reportedly, there were a dozen more shooters waiting for their turn to shoot when the incident happened.

While air pistol and air rifle ranges have mushroomed in Delhi-NCR over the years because of the absolute minimum requirement of space for these two events, there is just one shotgun range (Karni Singh Ranges) to cater to hundreds of trap, double trap and skeet shooters in Delhi-NCR. And when the national campers are training, the time slots given to those who come under the Sports Authority of India’s ‘pay and play’ scheme, gets further crunched, leading to frayed tempers.

As it is, shotgun shooting is a costly affair and those coming from far-off places in Delhi-NCR want to get their money’s worth. And when that doesn’t happen, it leads to acrimony.

Now with the Sports Minister, Kiren Rijiju, deciding to provide athletes free access to four stadia in Delhi under the government’s Fit India Movement, including the Karni Singh Shooting Ranges from 1st of November, things could become tougher for those visiting the Ranges under the ‘pay and play’ scheme. More national-level shooters, who are not in the national camp, will want to avail the facility for training, which will put more pressure on already overburdened Ranges.

Rijiju was quoted as saying that, “The intention of the ministry is to increase use of existing sports infrastructure by three times in the next three months. I am sure this step will not only promote fitness, but will also prompt more youngsters to compete in sport and help us identify more talent for the country.” Which means the Karni Singh Ranges could potentially be taking in three times the current numbers in the next three months.

Besides, the new policy will also allow non-SAI coaches to train their wards at the Ranges without any charge, provided they have a minimum of at least 10 wards under their tutelage. In the event, coaches will book time slots in advance and then sell them at exorbitant prices to “potential buyers”, leaving extremely limited slots for individuals wanting to ‘pay and play’.

Then, there could be issues with maintenance of the machines, which fling clay targets into the air, are overused. The delicate machines have been known to malfunction on a number of occasions.

The free access scheme certainly is well-intentioned but with limited slots available, it could spell more trouble for the people who run the Ranges.

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