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Special outfit draws ire

School of Hope principal Shyamala Raju on Tuesday slammed the Special Olympics Jharkhand (SOJ) for not taking proper care of intellectually challenged athletes, the sharp comment came days after SOJ vice-president V.L. Gangras criticised the way the state body was functioning.

“Serious and dedicated efforts are needed to bring the state unit on tracks. Honestly speaking, SOJ is not what it used to be three-four years ago. It has lost its sheen. I will raise my voice during the next meeting,” Raju, a senior executive committee member of the state association, told The Telegraph.

Raju, who has been actively in involved in spreading the Special Olympics movement in Jharkhand for the past two decades, alleged senior officials were responsible for the current state of affairs at the SOJ. “I cannot blame the coaches alone as they are appointed by the senior functionaries,” she added.

Citing an example of her former student Alpana Kumari, Raju recalled how she was deprived of a gold medal during the Special Olympics national athletics championship in Pondicherry some years ago. “Alpana ran the race sans shoes. She was not given a medal, though she deserved it. It was the mistake of the accompanying mentor, who allowed her to run without shoes,” she pointed out.

The senior executive committee member, who travelled as an escort with intellectually challenged during national tournaments on several occasions, said the parents were generally happy when their wards competed in Special Olympics events across the country. “The parents feel good to know that their wards will have an enriching experience that will enhance their skills. But they become equally disappointed when their children are not treated properly,” she maintained.

There had been several such incidents where intellectually challenged athletes were mistreated, Raju alleged.

She also criticised the selection procedure of the SOJ. “The selection procedure should be transparent as it involves the mentally challenged as well as their parents,” the principal said.

On Saturday, SOJ vice-president Gangras raised questions on the functioning of the state body and said the selection of athletes and coaches and their appraisal should be handled carefully.