The fact that a staggering number of Indian sportspersons around the country struggle to make ends meet and have a dignified life is common knowledge. Many of them, die in pitiful conditions, their legacy either ignored or forgotten.
One such sporting hero is Rajvir Singh, a double gold-medallist in cycling at the 2015 Los Angeles Special Olympics. In 2015, at the age of 15, Rajvir, son of a daily wage labourer from Ludhiana, Punjab, made the country proud with a double win — in 1km and 2km cycling races — at the Special Olympics World Games. He achieved this feat with only one month of training before the event, after a local businessman donated a professional cycle to him. Rajvir suffers from disability, with below-average intellectual and adaptive functioning.
Two years after his win, the family is yet to receive a bulk of the cash prize promised to Rajvir after his win, reported The Indian Express. The Punjab government had announced Rs 15 lakh for each of the gold medals he won, while the Central government promised the Singh family Rs 10 lakh.
"We received Rs 10 lakh from the Central government. But we never received Rs 30 lakh cash prize from the state government," Balbir Singh, Rajvir's father told The Indian Express.
Additionally, Parkash Singh Badal, the former chief minister of Punjab from the Shiromani Akali Dal, had announced a prize of Rs 1 lakh, of which the family has only received Rs 50,000, after a lot of effort. "Some officials even demanded bribe for releasing [the] Rs 50,000 cheque," claims Singh.
With the state government reneging on its promise, the Singh family was left with no option but to seek alternate employment for their gold medallist son. Initially, Rajvir joined his father as a labourer, picking stones and bricks for money. Together, the duo earned Rs 400 a day, just enough to feed the family.
But due to Rajvir's vulnerable mental condition, his father has now placed him in Manukhta Di Sewa, a shelter for disabled and homeless elderly people. There, Rajvir pushes the wheelchairs of the disabled, gives them food, water, helps them bathe, and performs other odd jobs. He earns about Rs 5,000 a month as salary at the shelter.
Paramjit Sachdeva, the area director of the Punjab chapter of Special Olympics said no money could be paid to winners right now because the draft policy for Special Children Olympics medal winners is yet to be notified. Even though the policy was cleared by Sukhbir Singh Badal, the former deputy CM of Punjab, it is lying with the state's sports department, awaiting notification.
Abject poverty has forced the Singhs to stop Rajvir's training, since the family has barely any money for food. And so, cycling, which was once considered an escape that would help their disabled son live a self-reliant life, is now only a distant memory for them.
The list of sportspersons ignored by the Central and state governments, the sports ministry, their sports' federations and politicians who announce hefty cash rewards in the immediate aftermath of their achievements covers the length and breadth of the country and the entire gamut of sports played in India.
Shankar Laxman, India's star hockey goalkeeper who represented India in three successive Olympics and captained the team that won gold at the Asian Games in 1966 died in 2006 while suffering from gangrene and with no money for treatment. Despite his 13-year-long illustrious sports career, he received Rs 25,000 for treatment from the state government.
KD Jadhav, the man who won India its first individual Olympic medal in 1952 for wrestling, lived and died in obscurity. In July this year, his son threatened to auction off the medal Jadhav won to shame the Maharashtra government into building the wrestling academy it had promised to establish in Jadhav's name but had failed to do so.
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