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Para-athletes put up in unfurnished rooms with dirty toilets; not given proper food

New Delhi: In a shocking case of official apathy, differently-abled sportspersons participating in the National Para-Athletics Championships have been put up at unfurnished accommodations with dirty toilets and unstable ramps, prompting the Sports Ministry to seek a report from the organisers.

The athletes participating in the National Para-Athletics Championships (March 20-22) at Janhit Para Sports Grounds (Madhuban, Bapudham) at Ghaziabad were in for a shock when they were asked to stay at messy and unkempt rooms at a building near the venue.

A differently-abled sportsperson taking bath on Sunday near a water tanker at 15th National Para-Athletics Championships organised at Ghaziabad
A differently-abled sportsperson taking bath on Sunday near a water tanker at 15th National Para-Athletics Championships organised at Ghaziabad. Pic/ PTI

The incident prompted Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to seek a detailed report from the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) as well as from his secretary. "Well-being of all athletes is a priority for us. Differently-abled athletes and their well-being is a priority for us. We are examining the matter and looking into the reasons for mismanagement of the event," Sonowal said.

The para athletes participating in the National Para-Athletics Championships had to face trouble after they were alloted unhygienic and difficult living conditions. "We have not got proper food, we have been eating poori and one vegetable dish for the last four days. We walk with sticks and still we have been put up at second floor. They don't even have ramps for wheelchair-bound athletes. The toilets are dirt, there are no fans and there is no water," said Yogesh, a participating athlete.

"I fell three times while taking bath today, we are drinking water from a tanker and it has not been cleaned and the toilets are filthy," added Vinay, another participant. Video footages showed the athletes crawling up staircases, sleeping on the floor in cramped rooms and unhygienic food being served to them.

A defiant PCI President Rajesh Tomar said a panel has been formed to file a report on the matter. "The PCI governs 70 federations and it is the Paralympic Federation of India's job to conduct the National Championships. They are in touch with the local organisers and our job is to oversee it. We have constituted a four-member committee, including an athlete, and they will file a report on this and stern action will be taken if needed," he said.

The Uttar Pradesh government washed its hands of the whole issue, saying the onus was entirely on the PCI for proper conduct of the event. Sonowal said, "Detailed report has been asked on the organisation of the National Para-Athletic Games from Paralympic Committee of India."

"I have asked my sports secretary to take immediate action and submit a report within 24 hours and based on that I will take action. From our part, there is no discrimination between abled-bodied and differently abled athletes."

The championships, comprising of two events - the National Para Powerlifting Championships (March 14 and 15) and National Athletics Championships (March 20 to 22), are being held at the Weightlifting Auditorium in Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium Complex and Janhit Para Sports Grounds (Madhuban, Bapudham) in Ghaziabad respectively.

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