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Medal Winning Para-athlete Kanchanmala Pande Left Penniless in Berlin, Officials Indulge in Blame Game

In yet another incident that smacks of complete callousness and incompetence on part of sports officials in the country, a para-athlete was left in the lurch during an international competition in Berlin after the money sanctioned by the government did not reach her.

Arnab Sen | @arnabsentweet

Updated:July 14, 2017, 10:17 AM IST
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New Delhi: In yet another incident that smacks of complete callousness and incompetence on part of sports officials in the country, a para-athlete was left in the lurch during an international competition in Berlin after the money sanctioned by the government did not reach her.

26 year-old para-swimmer Kanchanmala Pande, who was part of a five-member contingent that took part in the Para Swimming Championships from July 3 to July 9, is sightless and swims in the S11 category. The athlete spoke to News18 Sports and said she was forced to ask for money from others as the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) failed to provide the athletes with any money.

“Around a week before our scheduled travel, we were told by the PCI that we would have to pay for the entire expense of the trip out of our own pockets, except the airfare. I quickly applied for loan and thankfully it was sanctioned by the bank, otherwise I would not have been able to participate in the event.”

“As international athletes it is not our job to pay for our own participation. We were told that the money allotted by the Sports Authority of India never reached the PCI because the account in which the amount was transferred was blocked. This cannot be a plausible reason. How can the PCI be so unprofessional in their conduct,” asked the enraged para athlete.



But the real trouble for Kanchanmala started after she ran out of money in the middle of the trip. She had to then arrange for money with great difficulty in an unknown city in order to continue her trip.

“I had to borrow money from others in Berlin as I ran out of cash. It was a really difficult time for me. Even our coach didn’t help me.”

“Our coach Kanwaljit Singh just abandoned us after reaching Berlin. He did not even help us in figuring out our accommodation or other basic needs. If the athletes themselves have to do all these things then how can you expect them to concentrate on their performance? I request the PCI and SAI to look into this and in future send such officials who can take care of the administrative responsibilities,” Kanchanmala said.

Kanchanmala though wasn’t deterred by these problems as she ended up winning a silver medal in her event and also qualified for the World Championships, becoming the only Indian woman para-athlete to do so.

PASSING THE BUCK

While the athletes were facing problems, the sports authorities back home have been involved in playing a blame game.

A source with knowledge of the incident said that the Sports Authority of India has on record proof that money was transferred to Paralympic Committee of India’s account and it wasn’t forwarded to the athletes thereafter.

“According to government norms, around 75 per cent of the total expenditure is provided by the Sports Authority of India. The same was done this time too and the SAI has records of the same,” the person said.

News18 tried to get in touch with the Paralympic Committee of India, but officials did not respond to phone calls. PCI vice-president Gurucharan Singh though told India Today that the sports body has not received any money from SAI.

“We are facing problems from with SAI regarding sanction of amount for championships. The money for swimming championship in Berlin didn't come on time and as the process takes around 3-4 days, we weren't able to provide it to the swimmers,” he said.

For now Kanchanmala is happy that she managed to qualify for the World Championships and hopes that the arrangements will be better next time.
| Edited by: Arnab Sen
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