A heart wrenching story on India’s unsung & unsupported heroes have emerged where India’s 1st female Paralympic shooter is forced to sell chips on the roadside. This is the story of 34-year-old Dilraj Kaur, who registered the record for representing India internationally as its 1st Paralympic shooter. Due to test of time & fate, and lack of assistance from sporting bodies, she is now stranded to fend for her own self.
Back in the early 2000s, having a talented woman para shooter in India was as scarce as hen’s teeth. The Indian Paralympic model was still in its infancy with most Paralympic athletes still figuring out how to break into the international scene.
A look at Dilraj’s achievements
Cut to 15 years later, Dilraj Kaur represented India as the country’s first international level para shooter. Lauded as the nation’s best air-pistol para shooter at one point, she broke into the international space in 2015. She represented the nation in the International Paralympic Committee’s World Cup.
Not many know this, but after Kaur won the gold medal in 2005 national air shooting event, the women’s air pistol Paralympics event in India began. Kaur has also officiated in the selection committees regarding shooting and was also an officiator in the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup, 2021.
Death of father, brother & being forced to chips on roadside
Unfortunately, the exceptionally talented and willful athlete was given a harsh pair of cards in her recent past. In 2019, she saw her father’s death. After the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked its havoc, Kaur lost her brother.
With tears in her eyes, she spoke to a news publisher about selling chips on the road. Kaur said-
“Initially, we sold these near our house in. But my mother suggested we start selling near Gandhi Park, which is more centrally located.”
“We are buried in debt, left with nothing”: Dilraj Kaur, International Paralympic Athlete
Selling chips with her mother on the roadside, she added-
“My father died in 2019. He was on dialysis and it was expensive. My brother died in February this year. He had fallen off a building, hurt his head and had severe brain injuries. We tried our best to save him and spent all we had on his treatment, more than Rs 1 crore. But he died, too. Now, we are buried in debt, left with nothing.”
No association or politicians so far have raised support
The winner of 30 national medals – including a gold this year at the Uttarakhand State Shooting Competition – further said that those at the Uttarakhand sports association that know her haven’t come forward to help her. “Neither the association nor politicians,” the athlete said.
“Don’t want handouts, want a job”
While most people would have put aside their pride and would have accepted handouts by the government or a charitable trust, Kaur has refrained from accepting such handouts. An law-degree graduate and a certified coach, Kaur wants a job and not a handout.
“I have achieved enough in my shooting career to claim a state government job. In Rajasthan and Haryana, the government provides Grade B jobs to its athletes. Our government doesn’t.”
“If athlete approaches us, we will address issues”: Uttarakhand Sports Minister
Meanwhile, it was reported that the sports minister from Uttarakhand, the place where Kaur hails from, claimed not being aware of Kaur’s situation.
“The matter hasn’t come to us yet and if the concerned athlete approaches us then we will address her issues according to the government guideline,”
-he was quoted by a TOI report.