Para-swimmer miffed at poor welcome at civic reception

Kolkata : Para swimmer Prasanta Karmakar has been showered with the long-due awards and accolades by his home state Kolkata following his stupendous success at the
Commonwealth Games but the athlete still feels snubbed by the state authorities.

In a felicitation ceremony by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation here today, Karmakar was made to sit in the second row and he feels that had he not shifted base to Haryana the
treatement could have been different.

"If I had stayed here (in Kolkata), I am sure they would have made me sit in the front row (alongside Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee). As a matter of fact, I have created history in Commonwealth Games, but I sat in the second row," a visibly-disappointed Karmakar told to reporters.

"But that`s fine. I am honoured to be part of the gathering," Karmakar, who won India`s first-ever Commonwealth Games medal in any swimming event, said.

At the felicitation ceremony in Town Hall, Railway minister was accompanied by Commonwealth Games gold medalists Dola Banerjee, Rahul Banerjee in the front row.

He further said there had been offers to return here but it`s too late.

"When I needed help, they (Haryana authorities) came forward and treated me equally. I cannot just leave them especially after my success. It`s too late now."

Karmakar, who has been offered a job by the Railways, said, "I am really thankful to them. But still, I will appeal to Mamata Banerjee to have at least one per cent physical
handicap quota. There are many outstanding differently-abled athletes who are struggling to get job. We should be treated equally."

His right hand amputated below wrists, Karmakar won a bronze in the men`s 50m freestyle S9 in a historical moment for Indian swimming but the Kolkata lad had alleged that he was ignored by the authorities in Bengal that led to his shifting base to Haryana from where he got an opportunity to train among the best Indian swimmers in Bangalore.

He had said that his silver medal at the Asian championship in 2006 was ignored by the Bengal sports department and as a result he shifted base.

"I showed my Asian silver medal to the then sports minister Subhas Chakraborty. We were made to wait for hours to meet him. They just said `khub bhalo` (good achievement). But nobody came forward to support me despite my several requests I am ashamed to be called a Bengali swimmer," he had said.