Para-athlete pays heavy price for chasing dream

  • Navneet Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 25, 2016 14:18 IST
Two years ago, the PCI didn’t allow Parminder to compete in the qualifying event for the Para Incheon Asian Games in Tunisia unless he paid R1.5 lakh. (HT Photo)

Wheelchair athlete Parminder Singh is a victim of the Paralymic Committee of India’s (PCI) alleged wrongdoing. Two years ago, the PCI didn’t allow Parminder to compete in the qualifying event for the Para Incheon Asian Games in Tunisia unless he paid R1.5 lakh.

The amount was beyond reach, but to pursue his dreams he took a loan. Parminder participated in javelin but missed the qualifying mark. He was told the amount would be refunded, but despite assurances his dues are pending.

It’s been tough for Parminder, as he has to take care of his family along with repaying the loan. “Someone has to step into my shoes to experience the pain I’m going through,” he says.

Employed with Punjab Police, Parminder met with an accident in 2002 and sustained a spinal injury. Confined to the wheelchair, he started to take part in sport to beat the gloom. Since 2006, he has won six gold in powerlifting and two in athletics.

Even as Parminder, who won bronze at the Powerlifting Worlds in 2009, struggles to repay the loan, PCI officials are playing the blame game. Rajesh Tomar, the-then president, said he was busy with policy making and doesn’t know why the dues are pending. “It’s not in my knowledge,” he said.

SP Sangwan, who was the treasurer, also feigned ignorance. “We haven’t taken any money from athletes,” was his initial reaction. When told there was evidence, he blamed Tomar for the mess.

Satyanarayan, an official who had accompanied the national team on the exposure tour in 2014, admitted Parminder was among the 10 athletes who had paid money. The dues are pending as the Sports Authority of India (SAI), which had sanctioned the tour, is yet to reimburse the amount.

Of the R16 lakh expenditure, according to Satyanarayan, the government has refunded R4.85 lakh, and the balance is pending. A SAI official said he needed to cross-check facts before commenting.

Since there was a dispute in the PCI in October 2014, Satyanarayan said the matter couldn’t be pursued. With PCI officials at loggerheads, there are two factions now, athletes like Parminder continue to have sleepless nights. So far, he has managed to pay R90,000 of the R1.5 lakh due to the bank. “I don’t know how long it will take to repay the remaining amount,” he said.

Habitual offender

In 2012, during an exposure tour to Malaysia, players alleged that PCI officials didn’t pay the allowance of $25 per day for the 10-day trip. The Indian contingent had over 30 athletes.

During the 2012 London Olympic Games, para-athletes had alleged ill-treatment by officials.

In 2014, for participation in the pre-qualifying event for the Para Incheon Asian Games, the PCI took money from athletes ranging between R90,000 to R140,000. The money is to be refund.

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