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Disabled athlete sells gold medals to buy mother's medicines

43-year-old Indira Gaikwad, the recipient of the Shiv Chhatrapati award, was forced to sell some of her gold medals in scrap in order to buy medicines for her ailing mother; the powerlifter has been running from pillar to post since 1997 for a government job

There are few moments in a sportsperson’s life that are more heartbreaking than when they have to part with their hard-earned medals. Powe-rlifter Indira Gaikwad however, did not have much of a choice, as she had no other means to buy medicines for her mother.

Indira Gaikwad
Indira Gaikwad (43) and her mother live in a tiny 10 foot by 15 foot room. She is fast approaching 45, the limit for differently-abled sportspeople aspiring to a government job. Pics/ Dattatraya Adhalge

Gaikwad, a disabled champion, has won 35 gold medals at various international and domestic events, some of which she sold as scrap recently, to collect Rs 500 for the medicines. She had received the Shiv Chhatrapati Award in 1997, the state’s highest honour for sportspersons, but despite that, she has spent 17 years struggling to make ends meet, searching for a government job in the meanwhile.

Disabled powerlifter Indira Gaikwad
helpless: Disabled powerlifter Indira Gaikwad shows the Shiv Chhatrapati award and the medals she won in various competitions. Pic/Dattatraya Adhalge

But her hopes were shattered last month, when the state Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare, Padmakar Valvi told her it was not possible to give her a job. “I heard that now a days, many sportspersons are getting jobs in various government departments, then why is the state government doing such injustice with me?” asked Gaikwad.

She added, “Gaikwad said, “Since 1997, when I received Shiv Chhatrapati Award for powerlifting, I have been running from pillar to post in a search of job. I also requested the state Sports Minister for a suitable government job.”

When contacted, Sports Minister Valvi said he would speak about the issue later, and immediately disconnected the call. Paralysed from the waist below, Gaikwad and her mother live in impoverished conditions in a cramped 10 foot by 15 foot rented room in Mangalwar Peth. They depend on the measly R800 allowance they get from the government each month.

“My mother and I both are entitled to get monthly amounts of R500 and R300 respectively, under the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana. However, this amount is not sufficient to meet our daily needs,” said Gaikwad, who earns a little extra through tailoring commissions. Her 75-year-old mother tries to do her bit as well, cleaning houses in the neighbourhood.

As a state champion and Shiv Chhatrapati Award-recipient, she believes the state should assist her with employment and housing. However, there has been little to no support, apart from the Rs 1 lakh she received from the state in January this year, due to increasing pressure from the media.

“However, this amount was given to me to purchase items for a proper diet. I never asked for the money. What I want is a job. I met everyone from government officers to ministers, but what I received each time was the stereotype answer that they were looking in to the matter,” said Gaikwad, adding that she did not have any option left but to commit suicide.

“I was also selected for the 2012 games, however I could not attend the training camps due to financial crisis,” she said, adding that in her frustration, she had just picked up a bunch of her medals to sell them, without even bothering to check which ones they were.
 
Fortunately, her training is free of cost, thanks to her coach, Sham Akolkar. “Her passion for powerlifting, compelled me to waive the fees for her. I am also trying hard to help her to find a job, as the age limit for government jobs for disabled sportspersons is 45,” Akolkar told mid-day.

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