It breaks my heart to see an Indian international shooter has to sell chips to earn a living
Dilraj Kaur is one of India's first international para shooters, but her financial crisis has forced her to sell chips. Kaur is fighting for her rights.
"Dilraj Kaur, India's earliest para shooting star forced to sell biscuits and chips," scrolling through my Instagram, I saw this news. It broke my heart to see Dilraj ma'am and her mother working on the streets.
For people who don't know Dilraj Kaur, she is one of India's first para international shooters and the first Indian woman to reach this feat. She has been an active contributor to the sport in the past. Kaur has been a range officer at many international and national level championships.
I met Dilraj Kaur for the first time during one of my private matches, where she was the officiator. When I came to know she is an international shooter, her presence thrilled me. Throughout the tournament, I observed how she had a powerful hold.
She had a charismatic personality, encouraging shooters and cracking jokes. As a range officer, she was strict when needed to be, but she also made shooters feel comfortable. The Dilraj Kaur I saw that day was full of life.
The way she has embraced herself and worked on her strengths is inspiring. A few months back I also came across a video she created to spread awareness about breathing exercises.
But, after watching the recent video, I was curious to know what happened to our ace shooter?
In 2019, Dilraj lost her father after a prolonged illness. Recently, she also lost her brother. Because of medical expenses, the Kaur family is now in a lot of debt.
Dilraj still competes in national events and tops the medal charts. However, the lack of any earning person in the family has led to a crisis.
In a video surfacing online, Kaur's mother expressed fears about how her daughter will survive alone after her. She is proud of her, but it devastates her that Dilraj is not getting what she deserves.
Dilraj wants a stable government job, not sympathy
After going viral on social media, people came forward to help the international shooter. But she doesn't want any financial help. Kaur wants a stable government job in a return for her contribution to the Indian shooting sport. This is fair on her side, as there are quotas for international shooters in government jobs.
But, Dilraj and her mother have claimed that even after talking to the state ministry, no one has offered anything to her. Even Uttarakhand para-shooting community didn't help her.
Her fight is with the state government of Uttarakhand and she hopes to bring this change for herself and the coming generation of para shooters. She has raised questions about how other states are giving Grade B jobs to their athletes.
Financial constraint in the shooting sport
Shooting is an expensive sport and not every shooter can afford it in a long run. Throughout my shooting career, I have seen a lot of shooters drop out of the sport as they don't see it as a full-time career.
Recently, one of my friends dropped out of the game to prepare for government jobs. When I asked her, she told me "I don't see how shooting will make me financially stable". My friend is not just an average shooter, she has produced some terrific scores in her career.
In an interview, Tokyo-bound shooter Rahi Sarnobat had also mentioned how she used her prize money for meeting shooting expenses. On the other hand, many international shooters have been offered government jobs. So, where is the gap? Is it the difference in state policies or lack of awareness?
Shooting has been the most rewarding individual sport for India at the Olympics. India is on its path to become a powerhouse. However, the sport still lacks awareness in the country. How many people in the country are aware of the ISSF Shooting World Cups? In which India clinched record-breaking 30 medals this year.
Dilraj Kaur is not the first shooter or athlete who had to raise their voice to get what government/associations should have given to them. Her problem has raised a lot of questions, like what happened to other athletes like Dilraj?
Shooters like Dilraj have taken the country to new feats, they should be encouraged to continue shooting. A stable government job would help her meet expenses as well as pursue her sport.
Being a shooter, I feel bad to see an international shooter fight for what she had earned long ago. I hope Dilraj Kaur gets what she deserves for taking India to the international grounds.