Para-athletes face official apathy

Para-athletes face official apathy

In a case of official apathy, differently-abled sportspersons participating in the 15th National Para-Athletics Championships were put up at unfurnished and unhygienic accommodations, prompting the Sports Ministry to seek a report from the organisers.

Over 600 para-athletes participating in the three-day championships (March 20-22) at Janhit Para Sports Grounds (Madhuban, Bapudham) at Ghaziabad were in for a shock after they were alloted accommodation in two partially constructed buildings on the campus of a private college.The buildings, apart from not being disabled-friendly, are unfurnished and don’t have functioning toilets and even drinking water.The despicable living conditions have forced the athletes to sleep on the floor and bathe and defecate in the open, according to media reports.

“We have not got proper food; we are eating poori and one vegetable dish for last four days. We walk with sticks and we have been put up on the second floor. They don’t even have ramps for athletes using wheelchairs. Toilets are dirty; there are no fans, no water,” said Yogesh, an athlete.  “I fell three times while taking bath today. We are drinking water from a tanker that has not been cleaned; the toilets are filthy,” said Vinay, another participant.

“The facilities were not good and we faced problems because of that. But I would not like to put the blame on the federation only. The government will also have to take care of larger issues,” said star para-athlete Devendra Jhajharia, who won a gold each in the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games and 2013 IPC World Championships (Javelin F46).

Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Sunday sought a report from the organisers and promised to take action within 24 hours. He said he has asked for a detailed report from Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) as well as from his secretary. The championship was organised by the Uttar Pradesh unit of the Paralympic Committee of India. “Well-being of all athletes is a priority for us. Differently-abled athletes and their well-being is a priority for us. We are examining the matter and looking into the reasons for mismanagement of the event,” Sonowal said.

PCI president Rajesh Tomar admitted that there was “goof-up” on the part of his officials but sought to lay the blame on the government which, he said, has not given any fund and refused to arrange for a proper venue to host the event. “I had approached the ministry to provide their facility to host the event but the Sports Authority of India refused saying that their venues are being used by abled-bodied athletes. I did not have a venue to host the event. So I said yes when the Uttar Pradesh unit of the PCI offered to host the event,” Tomar said.

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