The National UAE / September 14. 2010 9:46PM GMT
Disabled Indian athletes protest against the Commonwealth Games at the sports ministry in New Delhi.
NEW DELHI Disabled athletes in India say chronic mismanagement of
their sports has left many of them without decent equipment, training or
preparation before next month’s Commonwealth Games.
The Paralympic events are part of the overall programme of the quadrennial event, the third-largest multi-sport event in the world, after the Summer Olympics and the Asian Games. One of India’s leading medal hopes is the 29-year-old swimmer Prasanta Karmakar, ranked third among Asian swimmers. He says he has received hardly any support from government bodies in attending international events. “In August, I attended the World Championships in the Netherlands with one other swimmer. Up to the very last moment, the government had been saying we would have to pay for the trip ourselves. In the end, they paid for our flights, but we had no coach or manager with us, no food or water supplies, and when we arrived we found they had not even booked the hotel room they promised.”
Similar stories are heard from other disciplines. India’s No 1
disabled table-tennis player, Pawan Sharma, says he has missed many
tournaments because of lack of funding.
“I was the only player without their country’s name on my shirt. It
is only a small thing, but it was very shameful and it says a lot about
how we are treated,” he said. He trains 27-year-old Suvarna Raj,
who hopes to make the final three for the Commonwealth Games. She
abandoned the government training programme this year after finding a
lack of basic equipment. “There were no wheelchairs, no proper
tables, not even new bats and balls,” she said. “We got no support
whatsoever, so I gave up and got private coaching through a sponsor.” Along with her husband, Pradeep, a successful table-tennis player and
activist for disabled people’s rights, Raj is determined to highlight
what she claims is corrupt and ineffective management by the Paralympic
Committee of India (PCI).
The PCI denies any wrongdoing and says it is dependent on the government to clear funds.
“If there was no money available, then I could understand the
problem,” said Javed Abidi, director of the Disabled Rights Group in New
Delhi. “But when all this money has been allocated and not spent, there
is no excuse. It is appalling. What is missing is basic awareness,
sensitivity and understanding on the part of officials. Disability is
not on the radar screen in this country.”
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports says it is in the process of
investigating complaints concerning the PCI, but that it has yet to
find legitimate reason to take disciplinary action.