This year’s Mumbai Marathon, held on a sunny Sunday, wasdefinitely more inclusive. There were the differently-abled runners to lend their distinctive spirit to the contest. Even the visually-challenged could participate this year alongside the disabled in the Champions With Disability run, renamed from the Wheelchair run to embrace more enthusiasts with disabilities. There were encumbrances that stopped this special contest from being an out-and-out good run: too many barricades and too few volunteers to guide the special participants.
Voice Vision, an NGO for the blind, has approached the organisers in September 2012 to participate in the marathon. Eight members in the age group 27-40, attended by eight helpers participated in the Champions With Disability segment. The NGO claimed that the alteration in the event’s title, on December 26, 2012, came after its continual efforts to make it more apposite. As for the mood on the race ground, while many of these first-time participants had great expectations, most were crushed on the marathon day.
Sushmita Bubna, founder-director of Voice Vision, claimed that despite being in constant touch with the organisers, its members were unable get to the venue on time. They managed to reach Azad Maidan through a subway but a long chain of barricades forced them to go roundabout around the venue. So that by the time they arrived at the starting point, spirits were already flagging out of disenchantment.
“We had informed the organisers in advance that we would arrive at and depart from CST railway station. But access to the venue was impossible for our visually-impaired participants. We reached the starting point around 7.40 am, and due to the late arrival, the security tried to hold us back from participating,” Bubna said.
“Medals for Champions With Disability participants were not available with the volunteers ,who asked us to accept the medals meant for half marathon participants. We refused these medals because we had not run that distance. After some hassle, organisers gave us the right medals. For almost two hours we were lost on the premises, as the exit route was not clear. Some volunteers were rude and not available to guide us,” added Bubna.
Bubna suggested that the organisers should have been more mindful of the problems the disabled can face. Mothers of many special participants complained that the disorganisation thwarted their children’s morale. Bharti Shetty, mother of Pranit (24), who was participating in the two-kilometre event, said he reached the start line late only because of lack of guidance and lot of barricading.
“Pranit has spastic cerebral palsy. A part of his brain doesn’t function and he cannot talk or perform regular tasks. We have been participating in the marathon for years now but have never faced the issues we did this year. We left at 5 in the morning from Mulund just to make it on time. The race was to start at 7.30 am, but we were lost from CST onward, as there was no one to direct us. All the barricading and diversions made it all the more difficult. We reached eventually but only after the event was flagged off, leaving us way too behind,” Shetty said.
‘Was a big event’
The marathon organisers, Procam International, said an event as mammoth as Sunday’s is bound to have some checks on movement.
“Special care was taken by us to facilitate the event for Champions With Disability. All participants were advised to come to the start line from the road leading from Metro Cinema.
The holding area for the event was on the road outside MSSA, where there was absolutely no barricading. If you were at the start you would have noticed the great festive atmosphere that pervaded the event. All participants were present. Some tried to come to the start from other roads and encountered barricading, and we are extremely sorry for the inconvenience.
However, with an event involving over 38,000 people, there have to be barricades to monitor movement,” said, Bruno Goveas, director of media relations at Procam International.