When the Sports Ministry derecognized the Paralympic Committee of India last year after listing several irregularities in its functioning, we thought we had seen the last of PCI and its office-bearers. And yet, there he was: Ratan Singh, former President and now Secretary-General of the PCI, sitting beside India’s new hero Girisha HN during an interview on CNN-IBN. Poor Girisha had little choice but to compliment the PCI for his silver medal.
If Suresh Kalmadi needed a worthy successor, he need look no further.
The Bangalore-based Paralympic Committee of India has been at the receiving end of complaints from athletes for years, but as paralympic events are (unjustly) ignored in India, the PCI managed to get by. Its shoddy organizing abilities were in evidence at the one major international event it conducted: the International Wheelchair and Amputee Games (IWAS) in Bangalore, 2009.
The IWAS Games saw a thousand elite sports-persons, officials and coaches arrived in Bangalore – only to be greeted in the worst manner imaginable. The planning was so shoddy that there was no ramp at the main entrance to the Kanteerava Stadium, and the Deputy President of IWAS had to be carried over the stairs. Teams weren’t assigned liaison officers, and athletes milled around despondently at venues. The PCI had won the bid to stage the Games in 2007, but for two years nothing was done at the venues to make them disabled-friendly.
The Kanteerava Indoor Stadium, inhabited by hundreds of pigeons, was a stinking mess, and organizers hurriedly put up plastic covers to hide the pigeons. Worst of all, there weren’t sufficient disabled-friendly toilets – and one had to witness the horror of wheelchair-bound athletes getting stuck in the doorways of the temporary toilets. Yet, even as the event had become an embarrassment to the country, Ratan Singh smiled benignly at interviews, blaming everybody but himself.
At a post-Games press conference, Ratan Singh’s son Amar Singh – then the vice- president of PCI – had the cheek to give the organization “98 per cent marks for the conduct of the Games”.
It was little surprise therefore that the Sports Ministry found enough to merit the de-recognition of the PCI last year. But nothing seems to have changed. When media channels in India broke the story of how the country’s paralympians had been left to fend for themselves without coaches, Ratan Singh — now the secretary-general — continued his obstinate defence. This time, he blamed the local organizers for the problems faced by the paralympians! How is it that despite the censure from the Sports Ministry, despite presiding over a pathetically conducted event, the PCI’s former office-bearers continue to hold the reins?
There is something to be said for a system in which there is no accountability, and where zero organizational skills are actually rewarded with a continued tenure in office.