In India, sportspersons come from a wide variety of different backgrounds and walks of life. There are numerous stories of athletes (except cricket) who have faded into oblivion due to poverty. Only a very small number of compelling stories – assuming they bring home gold – will sign lucrative deals with sponsors. Apart from financial difficulties, they also face the brunt of state government’s apathy despite getting official assurance.
The story of 17-year-old Rajvir Singh, a Divyang, a double gold medallist in cycling at the 2015 Los Angeles Special Olympics, is one such case. He made the country proud with a double win — in 1km and 2km cycling races — at the Special Olympics World Games. Surprisingly, he won these medals after getting short training on professional cycle donated by a local businessman.
Soon after Rajvir won medals, Punjab government announced a prize money worth Rs 15 lakh for each of the gold medals he won. The Centre too had promised the Singh family Rs 10 lakh. However, he is yet to receive the price money. Of the Rs 1 lakh announced by Parkash Singh Badal, the former chief minister of Punjab from the Shiromani Akali Dal, Rajvir’s family has received only Rs 50,000.
For lack of funds and to run his home, Rajvir had no option but to opt for labour work. He joined his father as a labourer, picking stones and bricks for money. The duo has been able to earn only Rs 400 a day, just enough to feed the family.
As per a report, Rajbir suffers from a disability, with below-average intellectual and adaptive functioning, so his father has instructed him to work at Manukhta Di Sewa, a shelter for disabled and homeless elderly people. Now, Rajvir pushes the wheelchairs of the disabled, gives them food, water, helps them bathe, and performs other odd jobs. For this, he gets Rs 5,000 a month as salary at the shelter.
As per Paramjit Sachdeva, the area director of the Punjab chapter of Special Olympics, the draft policy for Special Children Olympics medal winners is yet to be notified and as a result no money could be paid to winners right now. Despite the fact that Sukhbir Singh Badal, the former deputy CM of Punjab, cleared the policy, it is lying with the state’s sports department, awaiting notification.