Para-athletes still treated differently in India: Swimming coach Karmakar

File Photo : Prasanta Karmakar
IANS|24-Aug-2017 19:33

Kolkata, Aug 24 : India's Rio Paralympics swimming team coach Prasanta Karmakar on Thursday said the attitude towards para-athletes has not changed despite their rich haul of medals last year.

India recorded their best performance in the history of the games so far with a total of four medals won (two gold, one silver and one bronze).

Javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia broke the world record to win a gold medal while high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu became the first gold medallist for India on September 9 last year.

Shot putter Deepa Malik created history by becoming the first-ever woman from the country to win a medal at the Paralympics when she bagged a silver in the shot put F-53 event and Varun Singh Bhati also bagged bronze.

But almost one year after their collective high, Karmakar complained that in India they are still treated differently.

"The attitude towards paralympics hasn't changed. In the 2010 Delhi Commomnwealth Games, the world had shown us they are athletes and not parathletes. 

"There was no discrimination. But here you are a para-athlete. You have an extra tail," Karmakar, 36, told reporters on the sidelines of Civilian Welfare Foundation's Walk for Paralympics which is organised every year on August 28.

Besides coaching the Indian swimming team last year, Karmakar is the first disabled Indian swimmer to win a medal at the World Swimming Championships (2003) and the Commonwealth Games (2010) -- gathering more than a dozen medals throughout his career. 

He is also the Asian record holder in Butterfly, Breaststroke and Backstroke (all 50m).

"West Bengal lacks policy too," Karmakar who moved to Haryana in 2006 for a better future said.

"That's why I had to move out and train in Haryana in 2006. There has to be motivation after a certain age," he added.

Karmakar lost his right hand in a road accident at the age of seven.

Coming to the walk, this year, in its sixth edition, around 400 people from different walks of life would join the walk from Golpark to Hazra in South Kolkata pledging to raise awareness about Indian para-athletes and their condition.

There will be a sponsorship scheme called "adopt a para-athlete" for a minimum of Rs 1,500/month a year with the money being provided by individual groups to be directly remitted to the athlete.