Indian para-athletes to take part in international events

New Delhi: In a big boost to India's para-athletes, the International Paralympic Committee today gave them permission to compete at international competitions under the IPC flag in spite of the ban slapped on the national body.

In a letter to the sports ministry, the IPC "appreciated" the government's suggestion to set up an ad-hoc committee to run paralympic affairs in the country and sought the details of persons who can be part of such a panel.

Immediately after the IPC suspended Paralympic Committee of India on April 17 due to internal bickering, the sports ministry had followed suit to de-recognise the PCI for the shabby treatment of para-athletes during the National Para-Athletics Championships in Ghaziabad in March.

Subsequently, the ministry had written a letter to the IPC, proposing to set up an ad-hoc committee to run paralympic affairs in the country and to arrange for a mechanism for Indian para-athletes to take part in international events with Sports Authority of India sending entries of such athletes.

"In order not to penalise Indian athletes, we have decided to enable athletes who are already licensed in our SDMS (Sport Data Management System) to participate in competitions. Please note that these athletes will not represent their country but will be competing under the IPC flag for the moment," IPC Chief Executive Officer Xavier Gonzalez said in the letter to the sports ministry.

"We take good note that the Government of India has also suspended PCI. We do appreciate your concern about the athletes, and would like to assure you that we also have their best interest in mind and we will make sure they are not too affected by this sanction," the letter said.

The IPC's approval would benefit around 300 Indian para-athletes whose names are already there in the IPC Sport Data Management System (SDMS) for this year, including the likes of 2012 London Paralympic silver medallist H N Girisha, 2004 Athens Paralympics gold winner Devendra Jhajharia and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games medallists Rajinder Singh Rahelu and Sakina Khatun.

"Each year, every national body will have to enter names of para-athletes to the SDMS for IPC to grant license.

We already have around 300 Indian para-athletes who have already got license in view of the now postponed Indian Open Para Games (which was to be held early this month)," PCI Secretary General J Chandrashekar told PTI.

Three international events -- IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, IPC Shooting World Cup in Croatia and IPC Powerlifting Asia Open Championship in Kazakhstan -- are lined up in July for Indian para-athletes to take part.

They will be followed by the high-profile IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha in October. All these international events are qualifying events for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

Regarding the sport ministry's suggestion to set up an ad-hoc committee to run Paralympic affairs in the country, the IPC said, "We do appreciate your suggestion of creating and ad-hoc committee to administer Paralympic matters and would gladly appreciate your support in establishing this body.

"As a first step, may we please request that you send us the name and contact details of the person who would be able to work with us in this regard, so that we can already start the process," the world body said in the letter a copy of which was also marked to the sacked PCI President Rajesh Tomar who was removed by the national body in its Annual General Meeting in Bangalore on May 17 through a No Confidence Motion.

The IPC said the suspension of the PCI will remain until the infighting within the national body is stopped. "We keep receiving communications and documents from both groups involved in the dispute, as well as other parties we cannot identify. We would like to clarify that the suspension of PCI is maintained and will remain so until we have identified a solution to the situation," the IPC said in the letter to the sports ministry.

"Our intention is to reform PCI and start anew with a refreshed organisation, with good grounds to evolve and develop para-sports in India," it said. There is also another faction of Paralympic Committee of India headed by BJP Member of Parliament Rao Inderjit Singh which had called an AGM on May 15.

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