While Indians are drooling over cricket, we tend to be ignorant, especially towards the struggles of the differently-abled athletes. The overall attitude toward the differently-able persons is not very commendable– we are either patronising or sheerly ignoring. And such ignorance has been driven to the level offence. Well-known para-athlete, Kanchanmala Pande who is completely blind but swims in the S11 category, had to face extreme misery during her trip to Berlin because of alleged slip-ups by the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI).
Pande along with five others participating in the Para-Swimming Championships in the German capital from July 3-9 had a nerve-racking time as the government money sanctioned for their tour did not reach them. Kanchanmala was forced to beg and borrow money from kind people in a city she barely knew. Kanchanmala and her escort Jaimala Pande were part of the Berlin contingent that was granted sponsorship by the government. PCI, having failed to provide her with the money and she was forced to bear her hotel and food expenses.
‘I never thought I would face such problems. I had to take a loan of Rs 5 lakh so that I could participate in the tournament. I had to qualify for the World Championships and I don’t know why PCI didn’t understand its importance,’ Kanchamala, who is also an assistant with the Reserve Bank of India in Nagpur said, reported Daily Mail.
‘I was not given any official confirmation if I will receive a reimbursement for the expense I bore. I had to pay around Rs 70,000 (£844) for the hotel and more than Rs 40,000 (£482) for food.’ she added.
This not only reveals the status of para-athletes of India but also gives a clear idea of the ignorance we were previously referring to. These loopholes are a sign of our lack of acknowledgement of the struggle of these athletes who make it to Paralympics. Mostly, they come from rural backgrounds and make it big despite the absolute melting pot of corruption, fund deficit, and apathy, that is our system.
However, the humiliation Pande had to go through failed to discourage her. Despite odds, Kanchanmala and Suyash Jadhav won silver medals and qualified for the World Championships. Kanchanmala, 26, beat the qualifying mark in 100m Freestyle (1:34:00), 100m Backstroke (1:41:00), 100m Breaststroke (2:01:00) and 200m Individual Medley (3:03:00) — in which she also picked up a silver medal. She became the only female swimmer from India to qualify for the World Para-Swimming Championships this year.