A wheelchair-bound athlete, Karamjyoti, has been asked to vacate her hostel room at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi after a fire broke out in her room and the authorities failed to come up with a contingency plan.
The incident on Thursday once again highlighted the sorry state in stadiums when it comes to paralympic sportspersons.
Para-athlete Karamjyoti has been asked by Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials to leave the hostel for a week as they can't move her to the first-floor rooms as the hostel has no lift or ramp.
Karamjyoti, who competes in discus and shot put events, had to flee after her room caught fire due to a short circuit in the air-conditioning unit. The incident happened in the early hours of Thursday. While the flames were being doused, Karamjyoti was given temporary shelter in the room next to the reception of the hostel which was being used as a store.
"DG SAI has told me to go home. They don't have an alternative for us," she told HT on Thursday. "I haven't slept since the fire broke out in the morning. All I have been hearing is we will try to do something and now they tell me to go," she added.
Incidentally, the lack of accessibility shows India in bad light as it is a signatory to the UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This also contravenes the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
For the record, Article 30 of the UN convention stipulates that states "parties shall take appropriate measures to encourage and promote the participation, to the fullest extent possible, of persons with disabilities in mainstream sporting activities at all levels". It also calls upon governments to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to sport and recreational venues.
Executive director (stadia), Rachna Govil, and venue administrator, Uma Dutta, were unavailable for comments. Govil, it is learnt, has constituted a committee to look into the matter.
What is surprising is that it has been over a year since the Court of Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, PK Pincha, passed an order directing SAI to install lifts in its stadiums and hostels and construct rooms to ensure they are accessible to paralympic sportspersons. The order was passed on a petition filed by para-athlete and activist Pradeep Raj.
"SAI never gives hostel facilities to para-athletes because they don't have ramps and lifts needed for people with special needs. I am not surprised they haven't installed lifts in the Nehru Stadium hostel or Indira Gandhi Stadium despite the order. On one hand, the government is running a campaign called 'Accessible India' (to make its buildings compliant) and we have institutions like SAI which don't want to do anything about it," said Raj.