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Coach’s quit will over benefit sham

Alleged irregularities in Special Olympics Jharkhand have compelled one of its most experienced trainers to mull walkout.

Awtar Singh, sports director and regional trainer (Asia Pacific), shot a letter to area director Bailey Bodhanwala on June 30, expressing his desire to quit. There is no word yet on whether the state unit of Special Olympics Bharat has decided to accept his resignation.

Insiders in the state sports outfit claim Singh is feeling stifled because he has been reduced to persona non grata (Latin for an unwelcome person). “A section of functionaries are not paying heed to his insistence on implementing privileges that special athletes are entitled to. He is also unhappy with the state unit’s maverick style of functioning,” one of them said.

Speaking to The Telegraph on Wednesday, the 63-year-old trainer confirmed that he had sent the said letter to area director Bodhanwala. “Special athletes are not getting benefits they are entitled to. I am waiting for a reply (to my letter),” he said.

Singh, a seven-time national cycling champion and a highly experienced trainer for special athletes, has been instrumental in enhancing skills of his wards. Righteous and hardworking, he has also accompanied national teams to international competitions held under the banner of Special Olympics International.

A source revealed that Special Olympics Jharkhand was, currently, under the control of a handful of senior office-bearers who run the outfit on their whims and fancies.

Special Olympics Bharat (SOB) rules say that special athletes are entitled to AC two- or three-tier tickets on a train while travelling to national competition venues. But, the state unit sends them in sleeper coaches though travel expenses are fully reimbursed by the parent association. It goes without saying what happens to the balance money.

The source further pointed out that Special Olympics Jharkhand conducts selection trials only a few days before every national meet. “This creates problems in train reservations. Officials somehow manage to cram athletes in cattle class. The SOB releases annual calendar of its events in advance and the state unit can always book tickets in advance too.”

Special Olympics Jharkhand assistant area director Satbir Singh Sahota expressed ignorance about Singh’s move to put in his papers. “I am not aware. I have to find out,” he said.

However, admitting that they bend travel rules, Sahota claimed it was hard to get train reservations always. “In fact, we have been sending teams by sleeper coaches for the past three years. We cannot adopt discriminatory attitude. Parents of special athletes will not tolerate if we send some by AC coaches and others in sleeper class. So, we have made travel rule uniform for all,” he said.

On why teams were not selected in advance when the calendar was announced thus, he furnished a vague reply.

“We book train tickets a few days before selection trials. We reserve tickets for probables by duly submitting disability certificates of wards for concession. Parents sometimes become angry if their wards don’t get a berth on the final list. They sometimes also don’t send their children to selection trials,” he said.