Once recognised as the best para rifle shooter in India, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc in the life of Dilraj Kaur. Kaur and her mother are now forced to sell biscuits and chips outside Gandhi Park, Dehradun. She became one of India's first female international para shooters when she embarked on her sports career in 2005.
In a span of 15 years, she won 28 gold, five silver and six bronze medals, including the World Games of 2007 in Taiwan and 2015 in Bengaluru. However, she fell on hard times once the pandemic struck. The 34-year-old former para shooter now sells biscuits, chips, and other eateries from a roadside stall near Gandhi Park in Dehradun to make ends meet. She is accompanied by her mother, Gurbeet Kaur, who was an active participant in the movement for Uttarakhand's statehood.
In 2019, Dilraj's father and brother passed away, leaving the family on the verge of a financial crisis. They had to sell their house to treat Dilraj's father and brother. Now, the family lives in a rented apartment in Dehradun, reported The New Indian Express. Gurbeet also had to take up stitching to pay off debts. "Our financial state is very bad, which is the reason why we are being forced to sell biscuits and chips to make ends meet," said Kaur.
No Help From Govt
Dilraj said she had appealed for a government job based on her sports quota, but nothing happened. She also claimed she did not receive any help from Uttarakhand's para-shooting community. And the pandemic worsened her situation. She tried to do odd jobs but couldn't find her feet. "The COVID pandemic and lockdown snatched from us whatever little we had," Dilraj said.
Dilraj represented India in the International Paralympic Committee World Cup in 2015 and officiated in several selection committees and shooting competitions. "When it was the country's need, I was there, but now when I am in need, there is no one," said a disheartened Dilraj. But she said she and her family would never give up. "We don't mind selling things on the streets. We will do anything because no work is small," she added.
Dilraj's story, however, is not uncommon. The pandemic has forced many people to take up odd jobs to make ends meet. Last month, s story about women's football team player Sangeeta being forced to work as a daily-wage labourer at a brick kiln in Dhanbad's Basamudi village surfaced. Her plight caught Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju's attention, who promised to provide financial help to her.