Suman Kumari, Ganga Bai and Nandita with coaches Awtar Singh and Sukhdeep Kaur in Athens last July
Applause in Athens, amnesia at home.
Nine months have passed since mentally challenged athletes from Jamshedpur — cyclist Nandita and shuttlers Ganga Bai and Suman Kumari — won a rich eight-medal haul at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece, from June 24 to July 4, 2011. The world over, the sporting event is the Olympic equivalent for the disabled. But Jharkhand has not feted them for their achievements.
The 34th National Games contingent was honoured by the state nine months after the February 2011 event. But as is evident, there is no urgency to honour special athletes.
Part of the Indian contingent to Athens, the trio won three golds, as many silvers and two bronze medals in Greece. Nandita notched up cycling gold in 500m time trial and bronze in 5 km time trial. Ganga took the top slot in badminton singles and silvers in mixed doubles and doubles. Suman won gold in badminton doubles and silver in mixed doubles and bronze in singles.
They came back to a proud hometown. But the much-awaited state pat did not arrive.
On July 27, 2011, Special Olympics Bharat (Jharkhand chapter) wrote to chief minister Arjun Munda, requesting him to honour the special trio.
“The performance in Athens is the best ever by special athletes of Jharkhand in any international event,” Special Olympics Bharat (Jharkhand chapter) unit area director B.D. Bodhanwala’s letter to Munda said.
Bodhanwala sent the letter through state disability commissioner Satish Chandra.
Chandra did what was expected from him. The disability commissioner routed the letter to the chief minister’s secretariat, with his recommendation to honour the special athletes and coaches Awtar Singh and Sukhdeep Kaur according to guidelines.
The chief minister’s senior personal assistant Sanjay Basu asked the sports secretary to look into the matter.
After this, there was a beautiful hush.
“I met sports director Ganesh Prasad and requested him to sympathetically look into the matter. Prasad told me to get the East Singhbhum deputy commissioner endorse the names of the three medallists and coaches. But East Singhbhum administration has done little,” rued Awtar Singh, Special Olympics Bharat (Jharkhand chapter) sports director.
He added that deputy commissioner Himani Pande was coming out of her chamber when they went to meet her.
“She asked us to submit the application to her office. But a staffer said it would be sent to the general section, where it is still lying. We don’t know when Pande will go through it and when it will be routed to Ranchi,” Singh, who with wife Sukhdeep had accompanied the national contingent to Athens as head coaches of cycling and bocce, said.
When The Telegraph contacted deputy commissioner Himani Pande, she sounded concerned. “I’ll certainly take up the matter. I’ll direct the district sports officer to process the letter,” she promised.
Sports secretary Ajoy Kumar Singh said the proposal had not yet reached him “but I’ll definitely look into it in all seriousness”.
Right. The delay of nine months is a joke in poor taste.
Do you have any message for the special achievers?