Indian Paralympians left without money in Berlin as authorities fail to sanction funds

Indian Paralympic swimmer Kanchanmala Pande had to face a harrowing ordeal in the recently concluded para swimming championships in Berlin, Germany. Pande who is completely blind, swims in the S11 category.

According to Mail Today report, she and 5 other swimmers had a miserable time at the 3-9 July championships in Berlin as the sanctioned government money didn’t reach them on time due to alleged slip-ups by the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI).

Pande and her escort were reportedly granted sponsorship by the Sports authority of India but the PCI failed to give the grant money, leading to her having to bear all the hotel and food expenses. She had to pay about Rs 1.1 lakh for her fooding and lodging and also had to pay Rs 15,000 for applying for a visa.

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This tournament was especially important as a good performance here was necessary in order to qualify for the world championships.

Failing to get the amount sanctioned, Pande who is an assistant in the Nagpur branch of the Reserve Bank of India, had to apply for a Rs 5 lakh loan. This apparently was not enough and she was soon left with no money.

Things reportedly became so bad that she had to travel without a ticket in a tram from the tournament venue to her hotel. This in-turn led to her being fined a further 120 pounds by the ticket checker. According to the report she had to beg and borrow money from kind strangers to somehow make do.

The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) also messed things up on the logistic side. Pande had to write to the International Paralympic Committee, only after which she was provided with a coach. The coach who was finally allotted turned out to be no good. The coach Kanwaljeet Singh used to allegedly go missing during the main events and also had initially asked the athletes to pay the 90 Pound participation fee.

The PCI also failed to register her in the right event. Even though her preferred event was the 100 m backstroke event, they had got her registered in the 50 m event instead.

But thankfully things got sorted out in time and she heroically qualified for the World Championships in 4 different events which were, 100m Freestyle, 100m Backstroke, 100m Breaststroke and 200m Individual Medley. She also managed to win a silver medal in the Individual Medley.

The Paralympic Committee of India after being questioned looked like deflecting all the blame onto the Sports Authority of India, which it claims delayed sanctioning the required amount due to which it couldn’t be passed on to the swimmers in the right time. This apparently was no fault of the Sports Authority of India as the account number given by the PCI was reportedly blocked which led to the delay.

The Vice President now has assured that the swimmers would be refunded all the money and the issue with the coach would also be addressed.

This incident drew a sharp response from Olympic Gold Medallist, Abhinav Bindra:

This elicited a response from Sports Minister Vijay Goel who assured action:

Even though the Paralympic committee was pretty irresponsible when came to this whole affair the government may not be able to take any outright action against them. Doing so might be perceived as government interference by International bodies and can lead to possible suspension of the Indian body.

On this grounds, the Indian Olympic Association was suspended in 2012 which had meant that the Indian athletes had to commence participation in the London Olympics under the Olympic flag.

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