HYDERABAD: Type ‘Indian Para athletes at Rio 2016’ in Google search bar and the result is similar to the state of sports for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), buried in the shadows of the two Olympic medal winners, PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik.
Google says, “Showing results for Indian athletes at Rio 2016,” before “Search instead for Indian Para athletes at Rio 2016.”
India sent its biggest contingent of para athletes to the Rio 2016 Paralympics this year, a total of 19, who will be competing for various sports. However, not a single player is from Telangana.
“There is hardly any encouragement from the state government for these players. No one honours the many players who have won medals for the country. Those who go for competitions do it on their own. They are all highly talented,” said M Srinivasulu, President, Network of Persons with Disabilities Organisation (NPDO) that works with PWDs across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Training in harsh rural conditions makes them highly competent, he added.
City-based para cyclist, Aditya Mehta also pointed that there is no financial or any other kind of encouragement from the government.
“Many para athletes complain saying that only people who manage to have good rapport or can influence the members of the Sports Authority of India, are able to make it to the Paralympics,” said a statement issued by the Foundation.
He also rued about the current situation, where the two Olympic medal winners were showered with praise and whopping amounts of money.
Amita Dhanda, Professor of Law and Head, Centre for Disability Studies at NALSAR School of Law agrees with Aditya.
“I am not implying that Sindhu and Sakshi do not deserve all that they got. There is also, always, an issue of credibility when so many people promise to give them so many things. But if at least a quarter of the amount is spent on changing the situation of para athletes in the country, it would be encouraging not just for PWDs but also people of all disadvantaged communities,” she opined.
Srinivasulu said there are a number of challenges that hold back PWDs from taking up sports. Inaccessible spaces, lack of support from the family and no financial support are some of the reasons.
“It is mandatory that three per cent of the budget be allocated for PWDs. This doesn’t happen anymore. Even if 0.01 per cent of the money spent on non-disabled sports persons will help change the situation. Around 15 years ago, the government made efforts to conduct sporting activities for PWDs. at least on certain days. There used to be specially trained physical trainers too,” added Srinivasulu.
A lot of zealous sportspersons are hence discouraged, he said.