© Getty Images(Representational Photo)
Paralympic Committee of India has only been a ground for corruption © Getty Images(Representational Photo)

When such moments of glory go unnoticed, uncelebrated, a deep feeling of disgust and angst sets in the mind of those who have witnessed their everyday struggle. But they remain unperturbed by all adversities, determined to win, working hard against all odds. Such is the way of life for an Indian Para athlete aspiring to excel in Paralympics. Sports has helped them build confidence, believe in their abilities, and more importantly sports can be a tool of empowerment for them if properly structured.

Unfortunately, if one wants to describe the Paralympic Committee of India in one word, it will be Corruption, that too at its most deep-rooted version. Already suspended for the fourth time by the International body, PCI continue to destroy the lives of the Indian para athletes. Worse, this year India may not be able to send any team or participants to Rio Paralympics scheduled to be held on September 2016.

To join Paralympics, one prerequisite is to have participated in any international sports event before the main event, so that the athlete has undergone proper classification process and his (her) sports category has been already been assigned scientifically by competent international authorities.

Classification is one primary requirement for disability sports. Most Indian athletes are unable to participate in international championship due to financial constraints, and thus remain unclassified. A few days back, as preparation for a championship at Dubai, athletes from all over India were called for a trial at Ahmedabad by SAI, presently responsible for Paralympic sports in India.

The athletes were verbally confirmed of their selection for the Dubai Open games, and were also promised to receive financial support from the concerned authorities. Unfortunately, initiators of the trials became unavailable soon afterwards, and the athletes were not provided any support (not even supporting documents) they were promised from the organisers. It was later discovered that the authorities did not even send the list of names of the selected athletes before the scheduled deadline and the participants who somehow managed to reach Dubai for the event were not allowed to participate or undergo classification.

Obviously, this destroyed all the hopes of participating in Rio Paralympics for the participants who have not participated in any international sports event before. A few days after this disaster, the Haryana Paralympics Association organised a national sports meet in association with Paralympics Committee of India. Haryana has mostly remained supportive of its Para Athletes, and has somewhat provided required infrastructure for Para athletes of the state — something states choose to ignore. Haryana has tried to support its disabled athletes by acknowledging their achievements, creating job opportunities for the athletes, and more.

The 16th Senior National Para Athletics Championship was organised by Haryana Paralympics Association at Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula; athletes from over India participated in the event (that ran from March 26 to March 30) to hone their skills.

8 players from West Bengal participated in this championship, winning 5 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medals. Saheb Hussain (75 per cent visual impairment), one of the most promising Para-athlete of Bengal, won 3 gold medals in 100 m, 200m and 400m sports event in T12 category. Rubia Chatterjee (60 per cent lower limb disability) has won 2 gold medals in shot put and discus throw, and silver in javelin throw under F44 category. Harilal Tudu (80 per cent visual impairment) won silver in long jump under F12, while. Atar Ali bagged bronze in 400 m under T44 category.

Among other athletes were  Chayan Das (100 per cent Visual Impairment) and Somnath Malo (80 per cent lower limb disability), and more. If given proper support, these athletes are capable of achieving much more at the highest level. Saheb Hussain, for example, clocked 11.44 seconds in 100m (T12 category), whereas the world record 10.66 seconds.

There are many such talents in the state, and indeed, in the country. They are capable of competing at the highest level, but due to complete lack to support from state and national levels, their efforts go unnoticed and become futile with every day, making the situation more demoralizing for aspiring athletes.

Courtesy: Civilian Welfare Foundation (CWF).