Intro: Para-athletes in India will continue to languish in the depths of despair if they are not treated equally.
Three golds, 14 silvers and 16 bronzes-that was India’s medal haul in the Paralympic Asian games held in Incheon, South Korea last year. Despite the remarkable performances these players still don’t get proper attention, adequate facilities, training to develop their skills to excel in the sport. Despite honours, Para-athletes still face discrimination and are not treated like other athletes?
The discrimination was revealed in the recently held National Para-athletics Championship held in Ghaziabad, which was organised by the Uttar Pradesh unit of the Paralympic Committee of India. It brought to fore the poor management, unhygienic and difficult living condition in the Championship.
Around 600 differently-abled athletes participating in the National Para-Athletics Championships, held in Ghaziabad, were allotted unhygienic and difficult living conditions. Many of the wheelchair-bound athletes were unable to use the ramp.
The Sports Authority of India blamed the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) for the inadequate facilities provided for differently-abled athletes during the Championship.
In response, Satyanarayana, Executive Director of PCI told Organiser that, “The organisers expected around 600 athletes including team officials and escorts. But around 1,300 participants including team officials, escorts, technical officials and others participated. As there were more people than were anticipated, the organisers were unable to provide good facilities to all the participants within short time.”He added, “Following rains in Ghaziabad, the organisers had requested PCI to reschedule the dates for conducting the event. But due to fights within PCI, the event was not scheduled as desired.”
On the other hand, Indian Paralympiac Javelin thrower and Padma Shree Awardee Devendra Jhajria told Organiser that,” I don’t deny that the management did not provide the mandatory facilities to the para-athletes, but the media should have also checked all the facts before creating unnecessary hue and cry.” He added, “The facilities were no doubt inadequate but more than expected participants led to this mismanagement. But had the championship been cancelled, it would have been a big blow for the athletes in monetary terms. Now after winning cash prize in the championship, we’ll be able to continue our practice and focus on the coming championship.”
Meanwhile, after the controversy catched fire, Sports ministry released a statement saying, the ministry is looking into the incident and, if required, will not hesitate in issuing a comprehensive advisory stipulating minimum standards that need to be maintained in terms of boarding, lodging and other facilities for athletes participating in a national championships so that such incidents do not repeat.
Organising national championships at regular intervals is a core function and responsibility of Sports Federation, and they are expected to conduct the event in a professional manner. The sports authority has a duty and responsibility to look after the well-being of athletes. And the Indian media also need to keep one thing in mind that without being biased they also should start giving proper attention and equal coverage to these athletes like they give to the players of games like cricket. Para-athletes also win medals and glory for the country like regular athletes, so why discriminate.
These athletes will represent India in International Championship of Para-athletes (May 2 to May 9), which will be hosted in India. If our own athletes get this treatment, how will the international players be treated when they arrive in India? Things apart, it is the primary duty of a federation to conduct a national level championship properly, no matters how they do it. Nishant Kr Azad