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Seeking parity, govt jobs, para-athletes protest near Punjab CM’s residence

The group of 25 para-athletes, led by multiple-international medal winning para badminton player Sanjiv Kumar, were evicted by the police from the site and briefly detained.

Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann (File)

Demanding parity with other athletes and seeking government jobs, a group of para-athletes from various disciplines Monday protested near the official residence of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann by throwing their certificates, medals and trophies. The group of 25 para-athletes, led by multiple-international medal winning para badminton player Sanjiv Kumar, were evicted by the police from the site and briefly detained.

“What’s the use of our medals and trophies when we are not seen at par with other players. The para athletes have been demanding a job quota. Last year, we had protested in front of then CM Capt Amarinder Singh and at that time, AAP MLA Gurmeet Singh Hayer had joined us. While Hayer is the Sports Minister now, the Punjab government has been ignoring our demand for jobs,” said Kumar.

The 36-year-old is currently ranked number three in world and number one in India in wheelchair badminton category and has won more than 25 International medals.

The athletes alleged that the para medal winners at the international as well as national level have not been provided jobs by successive Punjab governments.

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Kumar, who was feted with Punjab’s highest sporting honour Maharaja Ranjit Singh award, said the players are forced to spend from their own pockets to compete in international events. “The previous government too had assured us that a separate proposal for job quota for para players will be considered. I won two medals in the Spanish Para Badminton Championships this year and a medal in Uganda last year apart from several international medals in the past. Yet, I am without a job as are several other para athletes,” said Kumar, who started playing badminton in 2007.

Para javelin and discus throw national champion Baljinder Singh too was present during the protest. “Recently, I had asked for training equipment for myself. I got a reply from the Punjab government that there is a paucity of funds. Can we wait to prepare and compete in nationals and international events in such a scenario,” asked Singh.

The para-sports persons, who were carrying their medals and certificates, also lamented that the state government did not organize any sports event for para-athletes during the recently held sports event ‘Khedan Watan Punjab Diyan’ in the state.

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“The government used our posters for the games but did not include our events,” said badminton player Ashwani Kumar.
National Students Union of India’s Punjab unit chief Isherpreet Singh Sidhu also joined the protest.

He accused the AAP government of doing nothing for the welfare of para sports persons who brought laurels to the state and the country.

When the agitators held the protest near the CM’s residence, police evicted them from the site and detained them briefly.

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Later the players were told to meet Navraj Brar, OSD, Punjab CM, for their grievances.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) also slammed the Bhagwant Mann government for not fulfilling the demands of para-sports persons. SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema, in a statement here, said it was shameful that Sports Minister Meet Hayer had failed to come out with a sports policy for para-athletes, besides providing jobs to them as promised.

He said the “callous” attitude of the AAP government had forced the players to hold the protest. Cheema said the seriousness of the AAP government towards para players could be discerned from the fact that it had not held the state para games.

First published on: 29-11-2022 at 13:37 IST
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