Official apathy leaves State athletes scarred

Nightmarish journey, poor facilities mar Delhi trip

The 58th National School Games in New Delhi were expected to open new avenues in the sporting world for ambitious kids who converged from the length and breadth of the country but the horrific experiences they endured have left deep scars in many, especially the ones from Karnataka.

According to a deeply disappointed parent, the nearly 140 kids who represented Karnataka were made to travel in unreserved compartments, forced to sleep next to dirty toilets, suffered abuse from drunk officials and weren’t even provided with basic amenities.

“It is perhaps one of the worst experiences in my life,” Ajitha Srinivasa, who accompanied her daughter for the taekwondo competition in the Jan2-8 multi-discipline event, told Deccan Herald. “I’ve travelled with my daughter for many taekwondo competitions but never has such a thing happened.

“We boarded a train from Bangalore to Chennai on the morning of December 29 and left for New Delhi the same night. We were thrust into unreserved compartments and the kids, some as young as 10 years old, were made to sleep on the floor. Some were even seen sleeping next to the toilets.

“When a few of us raised our voices regarding the inhuman conditions, the officials just said that’s all they can do and if we have a problem then we must board another train to go back to Bangalore. We decided to put up with it and thought things would be better in Delhi. How wrong we were!

“The conditions just got worse. All the kids were provided accommodation at Sarvodaya School auditorium where kids from other States too were lodged. We were made to sleep in biting cold weather with just one mattress and a blanket. Some of the windows were broken. The toilets were extremely dirty and there was no hot water,” she alleged.

Accusing the officials of harassment and playing a deaf ear to their concerns, Ajitha said the kids were not even provided basic things like food and water. “Not one day they served us food. The water they provided us smelt of chlorine and kids who drank it fell ill 2-3 days later. They didn’t even have basic first-aid items.

“The kids were given Rs 200 dearness allowance per day with which they had to manage everything, including food and water. These kids drink 4-5 litres of water every day and each bottle costs Rs 20.

How will they manage to buy food? I saw many kids just surviving on bread. What’s worse was to see some of the officials heavily intoxicated every day. How can we trust the safety of our kids with such insensitive people?

“Moreover, the kids were made to sign on blank papers. When a kid refused to do so, he was abused verbally. When we threatened to complain to higher authorities, they said ‘do what you want. Nothing will happen to us’. In fact the yoga boys were given dresses meant for girls. This shows how inefficient they are.”

Fighting against these adversities, kids from Karnataka won eight medals but bitterness was their ultimate companion on the return journey.

It is the duty of the SSLC Board to look after the needs of the kids competing in the under-14 and under-17 age categories while the PUC Board looks after the U-19 section.
An official from the PUC Board said the kids were forced to travel in unreserved compartments as the names were sent late to School Games Federation of India.

“School kids have special reservation in trains. However, the names were sent late and due to paucity of time we could not get reservation. It’s the first time such a mistake is happening.”

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