Earlier today, the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) announced they intended to investigate the organization of the 15th National Para-Athletics Championships that wrapped up yesterday in Ghaziabad following revelations of horrible conditions for athletes at the event. The report by an independent committee of three people is due back to the PCI by Thursday.
600 athletes participated in the event. They reported they had to sleep on the floor in cramped conditions in unfurnished rooms, and that they were served bad food. They also claimed not to have access to toilets that worked or water that was drinkable. Athletes reported that they needed to bathe and use the toilet in open spaces as a result of these conditions. The facilities were also not wheelchair friendly, with wheelchair users being forced to make use of wooden planks or drag their wheelchairs behind them. Athletes also told The Times of India that they were subject to price gouging by local vendors for food purchases ranging from bottled water to meat to vegetables.
A PCI release said, “The conditions were found to be miserable and needed immediate attention. As a result, PCI has set-up a three-member enquiry committee to conduct an independent and an impartial inquiry into the mismanagement of the championships.”
PCI president Rajesh Tomar was quoted as saying, “The PCI governs 70 federations and it the Paralymic Federation of India’s job to conduct the National Championships. They are in touch with the local organisers and our job is to oversee it. We have constituted a four-member committee, which includes an athlete, and they will file a report. Stern action will be taken, if needed.”
Tomar was quoted elsewhere as saying, “There seems to be a serious lapse on the part of the Local Organizing Committee and we need to address this issue immediately. It is needless to say that the situation is very disturbing, and at this juncture it is premature to hold anyone responsible. […] In this view, I as the president of PCI, have constituted a committee to investigate and analyse the factual problems and have requested the committee to submit their report regarding all that went wrong in conducting the championships. […] The scope of enquiry will not be limited to just fact findings, but those found guilty will also be held accountable for such a depressing state of affairs.”
Tomar was quoted by The Times of India as saying, “The organizing secretary of the event is to blame for this fiasco. I was at the sports ministry in Delhi on Saturday to address some issues pertaining to prize money for the para-athletes but am rushing to Ghaziabad immediately. I had initially objected to the choice of venue given that some technical specifications did not match the needs of the athletes. But my objections were overruled by other members of the committee. A panel %will be set up on Sunday to% examine the reasons behind the mismanagement of the event.”
The government of Uttar Pradesh has denied any responsibility for the conditions, saying it is the responsibility of the Paralympic Committee of India.
Association for Disabled People Pradeep Raj was quoted by The Times of India as saying, “Why should the sports ministry give funds to such an organization? The PCI has been organizing games in the same shoddy manner ever since they were recognized by the sports ministry in 2006. In Ghaziabad, they did not even pick up the players from the railway station. For the international event scheduled to be held in Delhi in May, the Union ministry of social justice has apparently set aside a substantial sum as grant. But going by past record, players are not going to benefit from these funds.”
The National Para-Athletics Championships served as a qualifying event for Indian athletes for an international athletics event scheduled for Delhi in May.