Para-athlete Ankur Dhama struggles to get his dues
Para-athlete Ankur Dhama is yet to receive any reimbursement from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) for expenses incurred by him during his practice camp.other sports Updated: Dec 02, 2017 23:45 IST
While the world will observe International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Sunday, India’s visually impaired runner Ankur Dhama, a Paralympian, will cringe under the weight of debt.
The middle-distance runner, who competes in T-11 category, had borrowed money from friends to attend the training camp after he had qualified for 1500m event for Rio Paralympic Games. The camp was held under the aegis of Sports Authority of India (SAI) as the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) was suspended by the world body. Though he was told that the money would be re-imbursed, there has been no headway.
The basic expenditure incurred by him during the camp included daily travel allowance and sports kit from April to August, both of which have not been cleared. “I was told the money will be reimbursed. Have submitted bills, but it’s still pending,” he told Hindustan Times on Saturday.
His pending dues amount to close to Rs 10 lakh.
While Dhama was running pillar to post to get his dues, his ailing father expired on October 26. “Some people don’t understand that every time I come to SAI office, I have to spend some amount of money. It is adding to my financial burden,” said the post graduate student of Delhi University. He added that the struggle with the bureaucracy is increasing his financial burden rapidly.
The para athlete adds that even the monthly pocket allowance of Rs 1 lakh he is entitled to is pending for three months. “There are some athletes who didn’t qualify for Paralympics yet got their pocket allowance,” he complained.
The preparatory camp was held in Delhi and Bengaluru. At Delhi he was given accommodation at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) premises. He had to travel to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for training along with his guide. “The money for guide runner is also pending,” he added.
SAI project officer Dalip Singh refused to speak on the issue saying he isn’t authorised while secretary of the Union sports ministry, Rahul Bhatnagar, wasn’t available for comments.
Dhama was also let down by the sports section of the Delhi Education Department which delayed his Arjuna Award application. His name was also struck off the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
At the 2014 Incheon Asian Para Games, he won three medals including a silver medal in 800m. He also won bronze in 1500m and 5000m. “Sometimes it becomes difficult to tackle off-field issues when you are preparing for a big event,” he said.
Despite official apathy, he is looking ahead to compete at the 2018 Asian Para Games. “Due to family problems, I had to take a break. But have started training again. Hopefully, I should get a podium finish this time too,” he said.