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Special Olympic gold medallist dies in poverty - Victim of government apathy

Special Olympic gold medallist dies in poverty - Victim of government apathy
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Team Bridge

Published: 15 Jan 2021 6:01 AM GMT

Twenty-one-year-old Rajvir Singh from Siarh village of Ludhiana, who had won two gold medals at the 2015 Special Olympics in Los Angeles, breathed his last on Wednesday after being on ventilator support for nearly a month. Rajvir, was suffering from an intellectual disability due to a brain-related ailment.

After he won the medals in cycling at 2015 Special Olympics, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh promised him help in a video posted on Twitter. However, in the last six years, he didn't receive his cash prize of Rs 30 lakh. Rajvir was lifting stones and bricks with his father for Rs 400 a day, and later was working as a caretaker at a shelter home for the differently-abled.

His heart-broken, labourer father Balbir Singh, told The Indian Express, "For five years after he won the two gold medals in 2015, we were only given promises. First the Badals, then Capt Amarinder Singh and Congress leaders such as Navjot Singh Sidhu, everyone promised to help and get my son’s pending cash prize amount released but no one did anything. Politicians and governments dishonoured my son’s achievement. We ran from pillar to post — from CM’s office to district administration offices in Ludhiana — but my son died without getting his due honour and prize money. The governments and politicians must remember that we were not begging or asking for any favour, it was my son’s right. Promises were made to him and they were never fulfilled. In fact, my son got more ill and depressed because he was carrying the burden that despite his achievement, his family was living hand-to-mouth. It would have been better if he had never gone for this tournament and won the medals because what followed was an ordeal."

Rajvir was suffering from epilepsy since his childhood and underwent brain surgery in the past. His condition deteriorated and he was admitted to Deepak Hospital in Ludhiana on December 18. He was then referred to Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) Ludhiana on January 4. He succumbed to severe brain infection. His father was so poor, that they had to take NGOs help to finance his treatment, which ultimately went in vain.

After his Special Olympics medals, several promises of reward was made by politicians. SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal announced Rs 15 lakh for each gold medal as cash prize during the SAD-BJP tenure to Amarinder promising a dedicated policy for Special Olympics medal winners and even Navjot Singh Sidhu assuring financial help. However, draft policy for Special Olympics children medal winners, which was approved by former deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, is still pending for notification.

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