NEW DELHI: Asserting that funds were released by the government on time for para-athletes, Sports Minister Vijay Goel today sought a report from the Paralympic Committee of India on how para-swimmer Kanchanmala Pande was left to fend for herself without money in Berlin.
Visually challenged Pande, who took part in the Berlin Para Swimming Championships with five others, was forced to borrow money in Berlin from a friend and was reportedly fined for travelling without a ticket on public transport after she was not given enough money by the PCI.
The incident has triggered reactions from the likes of Abhinav Bindra and Mahesh Bhupathi, who called the incident "unacceptable" and "shameful".
Terming the incident as unfortunate, Goel today asked PCI to submit a report within ten days.
"The Ministry through SAI released Rs. 3.21 Lakhs as 75 percent of dues as advance payment to Para Olympic Committee of India (PCI) in time and arranged tickets etc," the ministry said in a release.
"This amount was transferred in the account of PCI on 22nd June, 2017. Since the amount was transferred to the account of PCI, the players should not have been put to any hardship," he said. "The Minister found this (incident) as very unfortunate and has ordered that a report from the PCI be sought in the matter within ten days."
Goel, who immediately sought report into the incident from his officers in the ministry, said he also spoke to the PCI CEO.
The minister said he has been informed that for some reasons the money was not transferred by PCI to the team members.
The Indian Para-Swimming team was in Germany from July 3 to 9.
The PCI, however, washed its hands off the incident, saying the sanctioned amount could not be distributed due to the non-availability of court-appointed committee chairman.
The PCI vice-president Gursharan Singh said that the national Paralympics body could not be blamed for the incident. He said the fund sanctioned by the government could not be withdrawn as the PCI needed the approval of Justice (Retd) Kailash Gambhir, who was appointed by Delhi High Court as Chairman of the Committee.
Under the order of the High Court, which appointed the committee, the PCI needs the approval of the committee to withdraw money till a pending case is decided.
"We feel sad that this kind of incident had happened, it should not happen again. We regret that this incident had happened. We will seek a report from the team manager and find out how this had happened," Gursharan told PTI today.
"The sanctioned amount from SAI came five days before the departure of the athletes but we could not withdraw the money as it needs the approval of the Chairman of Committee appointed by the Delhi High Court. He (Justice Retd. Kailash Gambhir) was not available to clear the funds.
"So, we told the athletes not to take part in Berlin or go on their own and get reimbursed later. The team went on theirown and I am hearing about this incident. We have asked for a report about what happened in Berlin from team leader Kamaljit Singh," said Gursharan from London, where an Indian team is taking part in the World Para Athletics Championships.
Gursharan said that Kamaljit, a Haryana government coach, had recently led some para athletes to a championships in Australia on their own funds, which was reimbursed later. "Taking part in an event on their own and getting compensated later is not happening for the first time. Kamaljit had taken some para athletes in Australia earlier this year. They went there on their own funds and were compensated later."
Gursharan said henceforth this practice of para-athletes taking part on their own fund (to be compensated later) will not be encouraged. "We will not encourage this kind of participation in future. We work for the well being of our para-athletes. We do not wish this kind of incidents to happen in future."
Abhinav Bindra, the country's lone individual Olympic gold medallist, took to the social media to express his anger on this incident. Indian Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi and another player Somdev Devvarman also reacted to the incident.
Horrible stuff to read... Changes need to be made in the way we perceive sport and the way we run it... The current system is a shame... https://t.co/rzGVuypIam— Somdev Devvarman (@SomdevD) July 12, 2017