Kolkata: The Civilian Welfare Foundation (CWF), a body working for the rights of disabled people and para-athletes, on Friday pleaded to the West Bengal government and the country's sports bodies to probe the "harsh treatment" meted out to paralympic athletes at the three-day national meet in Uttar Pradesh.
The March 20-22 event organised by the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) in Ghaziabad as a qualifier for the Para Open Games starting in May saw the participation of 700 athletes who were selected through state trials.
CWF's patron-in-chief Gautam Sarkar alleged that the participants were denied basic amenities like hygienic boarding, sanitary facilities adequate food and even clean drinking water.
Somnath Malo, a member of the Bengal team present at the media meet, related the ordeal faced by the athletes.
"We reached the Ghaziabad station at around 2 a.m. A bus came and picked us up at 11.30 a.m. We were given 'puri sabji' for breakfast and then there were no meals in between... for dinner we used to have stale rice or the puri-sabji platter again. How can you have such food and compete in games?" said Malo.
The CWF demanded a complete structural makeover of the present PCI executive committee and demanded that recently retired paralympic sportsmen and sports science practitioners should run it.
Sarkar said the Sports Authority Of India should take charge and make itself accountable for all lapses to clamp down on corruption and ensure welfare of the para-athletes.
"There were no doctors to treat the athletes who were having stomach problems after eating such horrible food. Even prisoners are provided better food and facilities," said Sarkar.
The resentment was not only limited to the meet, but also to the denial of recognition to para-athletes.
"We have also brought in medals for our country and state, then why don't we get the same recognition as the general athletes? There are no jobs for us, no basic facilities to train, I want to know why this discrimination?" asked Rubiya Chatterjee, a shot-putter and discuss-thrower of Bengal.
"Under these awful conditions the national para-games should not be held, we have prepared a charter of demands which will be handed over to the committee if they accept to abide by the terms and conditions, only then will we send our athletes," said Shampa Sengupta, a disability and gender rights activist.