Para-athletes face official apathy, Minister promises action

New Delhi, Mar 22: Taking a strong view of the shocking incident of differently-abled sportspersons taking part in a national event being put up at unfurnished and unhygienic accommodations, Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal today sought a report from the organisers and promised to take action within 24 hours.

Sonowal said he has asked for a detailed report from Paralympic Committee of India as well as from his secretary after athletes participating in the National Para-Athletics Championships (March 20-22) at Janhit Para Sports Grounds (Madhuban, Bapudham) at Ghaziabad were asked to stay at messy and unkempt rooms at a building.

The championship was organised by 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.

"I have asked my sports secretary to take immediate action and submit a report within 24 hours and based on that I will take action. From our part, there is no discrimination between abled-bodied and differently abled athletes.

"The national federations, whether of abled-bodied and differently-abled, have a duty and responsibility to look after the well-being of athletes. If they have any problem, they (the organisers) should have approached us. We are always there to help," he added.

The para athletes participating in the National Para-Athletics Championships were in for a rude shock after they were alloted unhygienic and difficult living conditions.

"We have not got proper food, eating poori and one vegetable dish for last four days. We walk with sticks and we have been put up at second floor. They don't even have ramps for wheelchair-bound athletes. Toilets are dirt, there are no fans, no water," said Yogesh, a participating athlete.

"I fell three times while taking bath today, we are drinking water from a tanker and it has not been cleaned and the toilets are filthy," added Vinay, another participant.

"The facilities were not good and because of that we had to face problems. 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).


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