No effort or expense is being spared to get the Capital in shape for the Commonwealth Games. But with less than 150 days to the climax of Delhi’s tryst with the prestigious event, the same willingness isn’t being extended to certain ‘special’ athletes.
Prashant Karmakar is a case in point. The paralympic swimmer has been representing India for many years, and will do so in the upcoming games as well, but he has been left to languish on his own while his coach and fellow-participants undergo a 3-month training programme in Spain. The 29-year-old says he managed to overcome his physical disability, but the attitude of the government towards it has become the bane of his sporting life. “Three athletes have received government sponsorship while two have gone (to Spain) on their own money. The Ministry says this is because there is no paralympic fund,” he told HT from Bangalore. Karmakar lost his right hand, at the wrist, in a childhood accident when a speeding truck hit it.
Despite difficulties ranging from trauma, his family's financial woes and general apathy, Karmakar has brought several laurels to the country. “I won seven medals at the 2007 World Championships and the same number at the 2009 World Games and yet I have received no acknowledgement. It is as if I am disabled, so I don't exist at all," he said.
With the FINA World Championships slated for August, followed by the sporting glitz of the CWG, Karmakar is left without a coach and facilities to train. “Even a swimsuit costs close to Rs 15,000. Am I just supposed to go without one, without training and without any facilities, all because the government has no set procedure to assist specially-abled athletes?” he asks and adds that there is no way for him to bear the costs on his own.
Karmarkar's 14 world medals though, may not be good enough for the sports ministry. “We have set procedure in place when it comes to paralympics. The federation sends us a list of athletes who require aid. We approve it on the basis of factors such as age and form. Those who don't make the cut may be good but not the best,” said a ministry official.
Karmakar though is determined to be the best and has already begun looking for international support. “I have written to Australian Sports Federation, explaining my troubles. It's a shame that I have to look outwards when so much money is being spent on making the games a success.”