The Executive Committee of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) has issued the following statement:
The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) congratulates the entire 19-member contingent which represented India in the paralympic games in Rio. The spectacular performance by this contingent has brought laurels to the country. Two Golds, a Silver and a Bronze medal have been won by this small contingent that the country sent. The medalists Shri Mariyappan Thangavelu, Shri Devendra Jhajhariya, Ms Deepa Mallik and Shri Barun Singh Bhati deserve to be commended and honoured for bringing glory to the country.
The success of these athletes becomes all the more significant given the pathetic state of para sports in our country. The fact that most of these para-athletes have come from humble backgrounds and have had to wage a life long struggle against all odds and barriers, including stigma and discrimination, has also to be factored in while considering their achievements. They have had to battle against poor sports infrastructure, the grossly inadequate public funding for para-sports and the pernicious grip of a political-bureaucratic nepotism over the bodies that govern this sport. On top of it is the woefully inadequate support that has been forthcoming from the government and sports bodies let alone the corporate sector. Even in the matter of granting awards by governments these sportspersons have received unequal treatment.
The athletes have excelled due to their personal endeavour and hard work overcoming multiple obstacles. The credit for the success achieved by people like Marriyapan, the son of a poor vegetable hawker who has had to overcome poverty and lack of adequate support, goes to their sheer grit, resolve and the dedication of the coaches who have stood by them.
Deepa was the first woman to win a medal for India. Unfortunately, Sundar Singh Gurjar, could not participate in the javelin-throw event in which Shri Devendra Jhajhariya won the Gold, since his escort failed to take him to the venue on time. Gurjar had through his earlier performances raised hopes of winning a medal at Rio. Such laxity cannot be condoned. Those responsible should be taken to task. Allegations are widespread that instead of coaches and escorts attached to the athletes, many other unrelated officials accompanied the athletes to Rio. This has to be looked into.
The paralympic committees that have become dens of corruption need to be overhauled and delinked from political patronage. These bodies should be democratized and should be headed by paralympic sports persons alone. There is a need to come out with a comprehensive para sports policy as also integrate it with the overall Sports policy. The Paralympic Committee of India was suspended by the International body for a variety of reasons. This was not the first time that action has been taken against the PCI.
The suspension was lifted a couple of months back to facilitate India’s participation at Rio. There was very little media attention surrounding the events. It seemed as though this entire event was of no significance to the corporate media. It is only after Mariyappan won a Gold that the media woke up and tried to make some amends.
Despite all adversities, the NPRD hopes that the momentum generated at Rio will not be squandered away.