Former national champion para swimmer dies at 19, father begs for money
Three-time former national champion Amartya Chakraborty lost his prolonged battle with life and the system on Wednesday. His father is now pleading for financial help to get his son's body back from Delhi to their hometown.
Five years after he was declared "ineligible" to compete in para-swimming events, Amartya Chakraborty, a three-time former national champion, finally lost his prolonged battle with life and the system, leaving his father neck-deep in debt. Amartya died at the GB Pant Hospital in New Delhi on Wednesday morning due to "sudden cardio-respiratory arrest". He was 19.
His father Amitosh Chakraborty, who is due to retire in two months, has spent all his savings in his son's treatment. He claimed that his repeated requests for financial help to the sports ministry and Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) had "fallen on deaf ears".
Such was his predicament that Amitosh is pleading for financial help to get his son's body back from Delhi to their hometown at Salkia in Howrah district in West Bengal. "Puro bhikhiri hoe gechi ami (We've become like a beggar now) -- no savings left, neck-deep in debt having blown everything on his treatment," Amitosh told PTI from Delhi.
Amartya was his only son. "This is the plight of a national champion in India, and someone who was given the 'Best Swimmer' award at 2017 Para Nationals."
As he could not afford treatment of his son at private hospitals in Chennai or AIIMS, New Delhi, Amitosh took Amartya to GB Pant Hospital in New Delhi in October 2021. Amartya had a surgery in December last year and returned home but his problems resurfaced after four months and he had to be readmitted at the New Delhi-based hospital.
"We wrote to PCI, the sports ministry and many others but nobody came for help," Amitosh claimed. "If we got some financial assistance he could have been saved. Doctors (at a private hospital) in Chennai told me this can be cured. But I could not afford better treatment. "I've two years service left now and have spent all my expenses including the PPF on his treatment. We don't even have money to fly him back to Kolkata," he added.
Paralympic Committee of India Secretary General Gursharan Singh said his organisation could not financial help to the para athletes as it runs itself from grants from others and government. "Many a times, PCI itself is short of money to run its affairs and in this situation how can we offer financial help to athletes? Our main objective is to promote para sports in the country and we have to spend the limited resources we have in this direction," Gursharan told PTI.
"We could have helped our athletes if we have enough money but unfortunately we are simply not in that position as our financial resources are limited," said Gursharan, adding that the death of the young Amartya was a tragic incident.
'Two types of disability'
The promising para swimmer from Salkia in Howrah district had deformed fingers and suffered from multiple diseases including artery vein malfunction (AVM) and scoliosis that had possibly led to uneven symmetry throughout his body. He was classified under temporary disability and the young swimmer started making waves at an early age, winning national titles at sub-junior and junior levels in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
"His timings were even better than the seniors at that time. He was a sure shot contender for the Paralympics. But once he was made ineligible, his diseases started affecting him," said his former coach Prasanta Karmakar, first Indian para-athlete to win a Commonwealth Games medal in Delhi 2010.
All hell broke loose when he was about to participate in his maiden international competition -- Asian Youth Para Games in Dubai in December 2017. Acting on protests from some states, he was disqualified as para-swimmer and was later declared "ineligible" by the world governing body IPC. According to para-swimming chairman VK Dabas, Amartya was "no longer a para swimmer after he was declared not eligible to compete in para sports during the 2017 Asian Youth Para Games in Dubai".
"There are two types of disability -- one is permanent and another is temporary which can become better or turn worse or fatal like it happened in the case of Amartya," Karmakar pointed out.
Karmakar, who has now joined Haryana government as a coach, trained Amartya for three years at his now-defunct residential academy in Chinsurah when he won three national medals. Karmakar also arranged some financial help and doctors' appointments at the AIIMS but it was too much for the Chakraborty family.
"He was one of the most talented para swimmers and lost a fine prospect. From knocking doors to taking him to Chennai, Vellore and all the places, they (Chakrabortys) have gone through hell in the past few years. "I just hope that at least in his death the government comes forward with some financial assistance," Karmakar said.