Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Para Sports

How can India better para-sports in the country?

The best countries nurture their athletes' talent with world-class coaching and leading advancement in sports science and technology. But are we doing that with our para-athletes?

Para athletes during a track event.

Para Sports 


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 10 July 2022 5:13 AM GMT

Indian Paralympic dreams are earmarked by overcoming the most challenging odds, yet 19 of our fellow countrymen and women wanted to pave a way for the millions who would otherwise never dare to have such a lofty goal. To be the best, they had to beat the best.

The best countries nurture their athletes' talent with world-class coaching and leading advancement in sports science and technology.

The son of a millworker, who was struck by polio at the age of five and lost function in his left leg won 7 Gold medals in international competitions, became ranked World No. 1 and made his country proud at the Tokyo Paralympic Games - this is just one example out of the many inspiring stories waiting to be heard.

Several Indian athletes who overcame humble beginnings know this story all too well. Sport elevated their life and those around them, but the disability, and stigma they had to overcome and the risks they take for a chance at glory are unnerving.

Although India fared better at the Tokyo Paralympics than the Olympics, by medal count, the kind of support and access provided to para-athletes in the country is a stark contrast when compared to the buzz around able-bodied athletes.

There is much that needs to be done to bridge this gap and hone talent, no matter the disabilities present; and the government has a crucial role to play here.

Working in India with disability is a daunting task - access to jobs, both in cities and especially in remote areas is neither cheap nor easy. So what can we expect from our para-athletes? Should socio-economic background be the determinant factor? The Government with the PWD Act 19962, provided much-needed codification of rights to persons with disabilities.

Programs for education and reservations in employment have gone a long way to alleviate some of the stress on disabled individuals. The Deen Dayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) promotes daily living skills, skill development, and education to train people towards employability, training, and awareness generation.

Sponsorships have played a tremendous part in creating the resources necessary to prepare our athletes for arduous sporting events. The Haryana Outstanding Sportspersons Service Rules 2021 has appointed outstanding sportspersons to sports administration jobs and gives Paralympians and para-athletes the same opportunities as their able-bodied counterparts.

Upcoming infrastructure in India and grants

Indian para-shuttlers (Source: Twitter)

Gaurav Khanna, the Indian para-badminton coach, has teamed up with Aegis Federal Life insurance to set up a first-of-its-kind para-badminton academy in India.

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) under the promotion of sports among persons with disabilities initiative under the Khelo India banner will provide financial assistance to National and State federations for conducting games that will identify the most gifted athletes across the country. The federations are - Special Olympic Bharat, the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), and the All India Sports Council of Deaf.

SAI's regional centre in Gandhinagar is operational in athletics, swimming, powerlifting, and table tennis and includes a para-sports wing. Other SAI centres across the country are now being made accessible for Para athletes.

The TOPS scheme of SAI

The SAI is an apex government body set up by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in 1984. Para-athletes have been identified and placed in the core group of SAI, such as Dharambir in the men's club throw event, Someswara Rao excelling in the long jump, Manasi Joshi and Nithya Sre being two promising badminton aces, Mandeep Kaur and Manisha Ramdass (Badminton - SU5).

Thanks to SAI's scheme, a committee in charge of the selection of TOPS athletes also picks para-athletes and supports them and oversees the finances of their training, etc. to an extent. A recent change to the policy has athletes in the core group getting an allowance of Rs 50,000 per month, as well.

Assistive Technology & Athlete Rights

The RPWD Act 2016 specifies that the government take measures to develop technology, and enhance the potential, talent, capacity, and ability in sporting activities of all persons with a disability.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics included a groundbreaking combination of cutting-edge technology with amputation and prosthetic designs. 3D printing technology has been used to create personalized gloves for various sports that can be used to effortlessly push wheelchairs.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms were used to develop tapping devices that aided swimmers with vision difficulties. Disabled athletes received messages from these tapping devices that indicated the time to turn and time left to reach the wall, among other things.

As sportspersons grow increasingly visible and active on and off the field, their rights become even more crucial. In India, personal rights are neither codified in a separate statute nor established by particular legislation.

Any kind of recognition and enforcement is done by understanding a set of rights within current law. These rights must be used for financial gain and athletes need financial and media management advice to keep their names in the public.

Such revenue obtained can be channeled into the greater good, by opening academies or foundations to assist underprivileged athletes who depend on the help. Furthermore, substantial grants are being made by successful athletes and their foundations towards para-sports, and State governments give grants of up to Rs 5 crores to a gold medal winner at the Paralympics.

Taking notes from the Odisha Model

The Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, has looked to make sure that sportspersons get optimum competitive exposure. The wealth of training and facilities provided to the national Hockey team in Odisha which lead to their glorious performance at the Olympics must be readjusted and replicated for the para-athletes as well.

What started with the Kalinga Lancers evolved into MOUs with top corporate firms to bring High-performance sporting centres (HPC's) to the state, which are based on a PPP (Private Public Partnership) model and offer state-of-the-art facilities to local talent into international competitors. The CM's passion for sports and enthusiasm for hockey is what filled stadiums and turned this lofty dream into a reality.

How can India do better?

The Indian government has allocated 3064 crores as its annual sports budget. This money is not used in an optimal manner that can bring about the best results. It is spent and concentrated in an uneven manner. Some States see an over-concentration of funds while others are overlooked.

Countries that excel in the sporting arena have employed their funds in a more comprehensive manner. Transport costs are a major hassle for para-athletes in India. A policy providing them affordable travel to sporting facilities will help massively in developing talent across the nation because access to facilities is key.

There is a need for government assistance in Athletics and Olympic Sports, to make them commercially viable. Deepa Malik, a para-sport hall of Famer has joined the country's current ruling party and has been pushing for policies towards upliftment and inclusion of disabled people and athletes across her jurisdiction and eventually across the nation.

The upcoming three-year plans must make sports accessible to everyone, which can pave the way for world-class athletes in every Indian district. A Central Sector Scheme by the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports with one of the objectives being broad-basing participative sports among the disabled can be helpful. Subsidies and grants for sports coaching institutes will ensure the retention of remarkable coaches.

Khelo India Para Games regional level competitions help identify athletes who can be national and international champions. All Sports federations under the Ministry must focus on redesigning existing sports facilities for more access, including multi-sensory essentials and features for physical disabilities.

The Sports Ministry must team up with the institutes of technology, nutrition, and optimal performance to develop solutions for the impairments and injuries suffered by war veterans. These innovations can lead the way towards their inclusion in sport through mobility, overcoming trauma, and advanced training methods. Technology can bring people together and generate greater participation in para-sports as well.

Incorporation of para-sport-specific centres in our sports schools focussing on the creation of athletes at both the Olympic and Paralympic level by reallocating some of the funds given to the already developed sports in the country is ideal.

The Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) needs to conduct talent searches in rural communities and among the wounded veterans and provide incentives for exceptional athletes to join.

The Cuban training program is supplemented by Ex- Olympic-level athletes who become coaches and provide medical attention when they need it. Many of our veterans who cannot serve the country in a military capacity are men and women of great discipline who can be transferred into the sporting arena.

In order to further the development of emerging athletes, para-sports training facilities are essential and need to be established in every state in the next decade to capitalize on the growing popularity of para-sports.

After seeing our athletes excel on the global stage there will be more disabled youth wanting to prove their mettle on the international stage. These athletes must be lauded for their courage and also reassured about their future prospects by creating long-lasting infrastructure where there's the availability of jobs such as coaches or administrators.

The government of Karnataka's and Odisha's policy on inviting private-public partnerships to sponsor athletes as part of their CSR obligations shows promise as the industry is becoming more and more profitable in India and the name recognition of athletes can be put to good use.

Organizing these grants statewide throughout the country, and providing transparency is the key to ensuring these funds are used effectively and para-athletes also get their due.

This article is written by Vilay Sports - a sports management firm which develops and maintains partnerships across scope of sports.

Next Story