Athletes pay from their pockets for travel to Bangalore for the Para-Athletics National Championship

They are athletes who made our country proud in Paralympics, Para-Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and other international championships. Yet, they had to pay from their own pockets to travel from their respective States to Bangalore to participate in the Para-Athletics National Championship 2012.

Nearly 800 such specially challenged athletes along with 200 escorts are in the city to participate in the event, which began at Sri Kanteerava Stadium on Monday. Adding to their woes, some of them were denied permission to participate in the march-past on the inaugural day because they did not have uniforms.

This has pained some athletes, who said they could not afford to purchase the uniforms after having spent money for their travel.

Organised by the Karnataka Sports Association for Physically Handicapped under the aegis of the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) and the Para-Athletic Federation of India, the championship is also a selection trial for London Paralympics and the forthcoming Malaysian Open Championship scheduled for April 2012. The championship is featuring 156 events in five categories of ambulants, wheelchair, cerebral palsy, visually impaired and dwarf category.

No financial help

One athlete from Bihar, who had also participated in the previous national championship said: “Neither the State government nor the PCI provide us any financial help. We have to buy even the uniform from our money. The State government will give us just Rs. 2,000 if we win a medal, or else, nothing.”

Another one, who was prevented from participating in the march-past, said: “We are from a poor family and cannot afford to buy the uniform.”

Satyanarayana, director for the competition, told The Hindu that the participants travel should be borne by the governments of the States they represented. “We have made arrangements for the accommodation, food and smooth conduct of the events,” he said.

Sympathising with the participants, Mr. Satyanarayana said the least the State government could do to promote them was to bear 25 per cent of the cost of travel as Indian Railways extends up to 75 per cent discount for the travel of persons with disabilities.

That the participants for the championship had to travel from their own funds has not gone down well even with State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities K.V. Rajanna. “I will take up the matter with the National Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities when I meet him in New Delhi next month,” he promised.

Union Minister for Tourism Sultan Ahmed, who is also the PCI president, inaugurated the championship on Monday. Director, Department of Welfare for Disabled and Senior Citizens, Venkatesh M. Machakanur and Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Shalini Rajneesh were present.