Friday, October 25, 2013

Mission Rio16: Gujarat NGO to file PIL against official apathy to Deaflympics wrestling gold medallist

By Our Representative
Top Gujarat-based cultural NGO Drishti, which takes up social issues to fight for the underprivileged through digital visual media, has declared that it will file a public interest litigation (PIL) in Delhi High Court against official indifference towards Virender Singh, the deaf wrestler who won gold medal at the Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria, in August 2013 in the men’s 74 kg freestyle event. He won the coveted medal defeating Oguz Donder of Turkey. The announcement came at the film release ceremony of 58-minute documentary, produced by Drishti, on the top wrestler, who has received no official help so far.
Addressing the audience at Natarani theatre, where it was screened, directors Mit Jani, Prateek Gupta and Vivek Chaudhary said, during an earlier meeting with Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had promised Singh would would be awarded Rs 5 crore by the state government in case he won a medal at Sofia, in accordance with the norm for other "normal" athletes. "However, nothing has happened thereafter. After he won the medal, all that Hooda has been saying is, Singh will be rewarded in accordance with the existing rules. We are keeping our fingers crossed", the directors asserted.
"Our mission s to fulfill Singh's dream to make it to the forthcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016. We call it Mission Rio16", the directors said. "We are fighting against Indian official norms which do not support a deaf athlete to go Olympics. This is against Olympic rules, where there is no such restriction." The film cites several differently abled athletes from other countries who have won medals, including gold, at Olympics. "Here is a man who is capable of fighting for India, but officials are indifference. In fact, he was about to be eased out of Sofia Deaflympics due to an internal fight", they added.
The film reveals that Singh was trained with Olympic silver medallist Sushil Kumar and bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, and quotes his coach as saying that he is "equal to them". Sushil Kumar, who agrees to the view, has also been shown as regretting poor treatment meted out to the athlete by the officialdom, which is quoted as saying that Singh cannot participate in normal Olympics as "he cannot listen to the whistle, which is the key to starting the game... There are fixed norms for awarding athletes, and if he fits into those norms, he will be paid", one official tells the filmmakers.
A farmer's son belonging to rural Haryana, Singh -- who is popularly called "goonga pehelwan" -- had won medals at previous special Olympics, too. Aged 31, he won India’s first and only gold medal at the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne, Australia and added a silver medal at the World Deaf Wrestling Championship, 2008 in Yerevan, Armenia. Even then, he was denied permission to go to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 or London Olympics in 2012. Singh, present at the film release ceremony, was shown as telling the filmmakers in sign language that he feels neglected at the Chhatrasal Stadium, Delhi, where he trains himself.
"While other competing normal athletes live comfortably in separate rooms, I must live with others and in a room that stinks. If normal athletes are allowed home food, I am not. They get huge help from the government, I get nothing", he asserts, even as he is shown collecting "charity money" -- Rs 10 to Rs 100 notes -- from the rural folk in Haryana after winning dangal -- the traditional Indian mud wrestling. "This was terrible... How could such a major athlete be treated like this?", someone commented during an audience interaction that followed screening.

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