Make weapons available by making them affordable: Vijay KumarDecember 26, 2017, Chandigarh
London Olympic Games silver medallist Vijay Kumar comes from a background where, had he not been selected in the Army, he wouldn’t have been anywhere close to an expensive sport such as shooting. The champion shooter knows just too well the grind every shooter has to go through to become a champion in a country where sport, sadly, is still not a priority area. HT spoke to him on the issues faced by shooters while importing guns and how red tape is hampering the growth of one of the biggest medal-grosser sport. Excerpts:
Has the frequent changes in import norms affected shooting sport in the country?
Earlier, one had to be among the top 25 in Nationals to be eligible for import and avail import duty exemptions. Between 2001 and 2008, upcoming shooters were at the mercy of established 25 shooters to get access to weapons…one couldn’t be among the top 25 in the country without participating in the Nationals, and for that you required weapons, which were inaccessible.
What about the import norms post 2008?
In the past decade, things have changed and import norms have become favourable. The number of shooters has swelled from 500-600 to 5,000-5,500. Despite the growth, issues remain and purchasing an air rifle or an air pistol is not a cakewalk. There are still time-consuming steps before you can import weapons.
GST on sports equipment is a major issue…
The imposition of GST on shooting equipment has come as a shocker, especially for newcomers. Shooting sport was already expensive… Thankfully, rules were relaxed after the sports ministry took up the issue with the government. For now, there is GST exemption for national shooters but shooters registered with rifle clubs will have to pay 18% GST. If you want to make weapons easily available to a sizeable number, you have to make it affordable.
What else should be done to popularise the sport?
The biggest challenge is that shooting sport is not spectator-friendly. To do so, it should be televised. For that, some changes should be made in the format of events organised in the country.