It has been just a few months since the Paralympic Committee Of India was disbanded in April for their mistreatment of the specially-abled athletes in March, but it seems the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has not learnt anything.
Twenty-eight members of the Indian athletics team for the Asia Pacific Deaf Games (APDG) were forced to sleep on the pavements of Delhi’s roads after SAI failed to provide them accommodation.
The athletes were waiting for their visas to participate in the competition in Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei, which is set to start today. The athletes were not only left to fend for themselves ahead of the tournament, but also forced to eat their meals at a Gurudwara as the authorities failed to provide them food too. While the athletes were able to finally get their visa on Friday, with less then 25 hours to the competition not much should be expected from them especially considering their current state of mind.
While the athletes have left for Taiwan, the blame game has already begun in India.
Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was quick to order an inquiry, and also made sure that Sports Authority of India (SAI) is also dragged into the controversy for not providing accommodation to the team members. Addressing the issue, Sonowal said:
“I was very sad to learn about this. Whoever is responsible for this will be brought to book.”
Meanwhile, SAI DG Injeti Srinivas, though describing the incident as being “unfortunate”, was quick to categorically blame the federation and state that “nobody asked us for accommodation”. He added:
“You criticise SAI whenever it is due but this case is a complete distortion of facts. Nobody asked us for accommodation. The athletes are suffering because their federation – All India Sports Council of the Deaf – is in a mess.”
He claimed that despite AISCD not having settled their accounts for the previous trip, SAI still cleared Rs.50 lakh for the trip. When asked about the visa and the fact that it was not available to the players even 48 hours before the competition, he again blamed the federation for the callousness:
“As far as the visa issue is concerned, I have found that the athletes’ visa was rejected earlier because they did not provide the invitation letter of the Taiwanese Embassy. Thereafter, we took up the matter to ministry level and MEA got involved. The MEA informed us that visa will be given by Thursday but it was not processed due to a server problem.”
While SAI blames the federation for the entire episode, the athletes told Sports Guerilla that they were allegedly even refused accommodation at SAI’s New Delhi campus hostel: