The Paralympic Committee of India on Wednesday washed its hands off the reported incident of a blind para-swimmer being left to fend for herself in Berlin, saying the sanctioned amount could not be distributed due to the non-availability of court-appointed committee chairman.
Reports said that Kanchanmala Pande, who took part in the Berlin Para Swimming Championships with five others, was forced to borrow money in Berlin from a friend and was fined for travelling without a ticket on public transport after she was not given enough money by the PCI.
The incident has triggered reactions from the likes of Abhinav Bindra, Mahesh Bhupathi, while Sports Minister Vijay Goel has promised to look into the matter.
The PCI vice-president Gursharan Singh said that the national Paralympics body could not be blamed for the incident.
He said the fund sanctioned by the government could not be withdrawn as the PCI needed the approval of Justice (Retd) Kailash Gambhir, who was appointed by Delhi High Court as Chairman of the Committee.
Under the order of the High Court, which appointed the committee, the PCI needs the approval of the committee to withdraw money till a pending case is decided.
“We feel sad that this kind of incident had happened, it should not happen again. We regret that this incident had happened. We will seek a report from the team manager and find out how this had happened,” Gursharan told PTI today.
“The sanctioned amount from SAI came five days before the departure of the athletes but we could withdraw the money as it needs the approval of the Chairman of Committee appointed by the Delhi High Court. He (Justice Retd. Kailash Gambhir) was not available to clear the funds.
“So, we told the athletes not to take part in Berlin or go on their own and compensate later. The team went on their own and I am hearing about this incident. We have asked for a report about what happened in Berlin from team leader Kamaljit Singh,” said Gursharan from London, where an Indian team is taking part in the World Para Athletics Championships.
Gursharan said that Kamaljit, a Haryana government coach, had recently led some para athletes to a championships in Australia on their own funds which was compensated later.
“Taking part in an event on their own and compensating later is not happening for the first time. Kamaljit had taken some para athletes in Australia earlier this year. They went there on their own funds and were compensated later.”
Gursharan said henceforth this practice of para-athletes taking part on their own fund (to be compensated later) will not be encouraged.
“We will not encourage this kind of participation in future. We work for the well being of our para-athletes. We do not wish this kind of incidents to happen in future.”
Abhinav Bindra, the country's lone individual Olympic gold medallist, took to the social media to express his anger on this incident.
“This is UNACCEPTABLE. People must be held accountable,” Bindra wrote on his Twitter handle.
He even tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sports Minister Vijay Goel.
Indian Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi and another player Somdev Devvarman also reacted to the incident.
“'Against all Odds' has been every sportspersons story in India at some level but this is an all time low,” tweeted multiple Grand Slam winner Bhupathi.
“Horrible stuff to read… Changes need to be made in the way we perceive sport and the way we run it… The current system is a shame… ,” Devvarman wrote.
Sports Minister Goel, on the other hand, said he would look into the matter.
“I'm informed funds were released to Paralympic Committee by SAI on behalf of @YASMinistry. Trying to ascertain from PCI where problem lies,” Goel wrote on his Twitter handle.
“I've instructed my Ministry to verify the facts of this episode and then comment on the matter,” he added.