Indian archers on target only because of Tatas, says Dola Banerjee

Written by Chandan Banerjee | Kolkata, Sep 29 | Updated: Sep 30 2007, 08:56am hrs
Despite bagging honours overseas, archers are getting little help from the the government and corporate sector, barring the Tatas.

Dola Banerjee, one of the ace archers in the world today, told FE: "Earlier, we used to think that remarkable results in the international arena would bring us sponsorships. But nothing has happened."

The 27-year-old Dola, who had claimed the gold in the Meteksan Archery World Cup tournament in Dover, England, in August, said: "Look at us. We have been struggling round the year. Fortunately I have a job. But what about the unemployed budding archers"

Dola's gold at Dover assures her of a place at the finals in Dubai, scheduled for November.

She says she has to spend Rs 80,000 a year just on practice.

"It is really the minimum cost for practice. A set of equipment costs over Rs 90,000, while we need to change the arrows every three months, and a dozen arrows cost Rs 18,000," Dola said.

"It is just impossible for ordinary people," she said. "I have a job with Eastern Railway and get facilities at Tata Academy as I was a contractual of Tata for eight years (1997-05)."

At the Beijing Asian Championship earlier this month, Dola secured 5th position in the women's individual recurve.

"We finished third. The results are quite good as it was a knockout format," Dola said.

She was all praise for the Tata Archery Academy in Jamshedpur. "I can say without any doubt that Indian archery is surviving only because of the Tatas," she said.

Although she praised the archery association for starting prize money meets from 2003, which have benefited quite a few archers, she said the money was too little. "What can you do with the money The winner gets just Rs 8,000-10,000," she said.

Rashmi Sharma, the youngest swimmer of Kolkata, who successfully crossed the English Channel twice (on July 19, 2006, and August 24, 2007), also laments the lack of sponsorship.

Rashmi, an engineering student, comes from a middle-class family. "I found it very difficult to get any help from business houses for my efforts, but my father's employers' stepped forward with a partial sponsorship and the rest was provided by my family," she said.

Her father Vipan works for a Taj group hotel. Rashmi required Rs 4.5 lakh last year and his employers contributed Rs 1.5 lakh.

"This year, she needed Rs 6.5 lakh, and the company came up with Rs 4.75 lakh," he said.

Sharma says he has approached many corporate houses, but all have asked him to wait till next year.