Paralympians urge equal respect, opportunities
New Delhi, Sep 27 (IANS) Indian para-athletes, who clinched four medals at the just-concluded Rio Paralympic Games, have made a passionate plea to the government for proper jobs and treatment at par with their able-bodied counterparts.
With their sporting fortunes soaring high, two athletes -- powerlifter Farman Basha and club thrower Amit Kumar Saroha -- stressed that they need jobs for a secure future.
The public debate on whether the country's Paralympic athletes should be treated at par with Olympic athletes was ignited once again after they performed better than their abled-bodied counterparts in Rio.
While the para-athletes have taken home four medals at the Paralympics -- including two golds, a silver and a bronze -- the able-bodied athletes could only manage two medals -- a silver and a bronze -- at the Rio Olympics last month.
On Thursday, Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) president Rao Inderjit Singh weighed in on the debate when he said that the para-athletes should be treated equally and put on the same pedestal as able-bodied athletes.
Farman, who missed out on a bronze medal by finishing fourth in the men's 49 kilogram category at Rio, told IANS: "The most important thing for any athlete is a job. Despite being a diploma holder and medal winner at many international competitions, I don't have a job. But now I am hoping for good things, I have also written a letter to the Prime Minister."
Echoing this, Amit Kumar, who also missed a bronze medal by a whisker in the men's club throw competition, said: "If you are able-bodied and if you participate in one Olympics, you will get a job and sponsors; but here we have participated in 4-5 Olympics but have not got a single job offer from anywhere."
Both players also demanded equal treatment in every field. "Everything between able-body athletes and differently-abled athletes should now be equal, like cash awards, facilities. We showed that we can also win medals for the country, then why are we discriminated when it comes to sporting awards," Farman rued.
"What Dipa Karmakar did I also did -- even better, as I was constantly at fourth and fifth position in the last four Olympics and she only did it once. I only want our achievements to be recognised by the government," he added.
"The whole team is asking for this. We have approached many people, including the Prime Minister. They only said that they will take this matter up in a positive way," Amit Kumar told IANS.
In Rio, Farman briefly raised hopes of securing a medal when he successfully lifted 140 kg in his first attempt. But he subsequently faltered in his second and third attempts of 150 kg and 155 kg, respectively, to crash out of contention.
"Before the Paralympic Games, in Malayisa, I lifted 163 kg. But after coming to Rio, I could not do more than 152 kg. Not even one day. It has something to do with the weather and also the journey till Rio was very tiring. Maybe this is the reason why I missed out on a medal there," he said.
(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org)