New Delhi, July 31 (IANS) An Olympic medallist, a World Champion, a Padma Shri and yet a Grade IV employee in Indian Railways. That's the tragic tale of para-athlete Devendra Jhajharia, who is crying for recognition for disabled athletes.
While the sports ministry is always quick to congratulate able-bodied athletes when they win a medal in top international events, the one-armed Devendra is yet to get a congrtulatory message for winning the javelin throw (F-47 category) gold at the World Paralympic Championships in Lyon, France, July 21.
"This is the tragedy of para-athletes in the country. Generally the sports ministry is quick to congratulate sportspersons when they win an Olympic or a World Championship medal. But I am yet to get even a courtesy call from the government," said the 32-year-old.
The only consolation for Devendra has been a cash award of Rs.5 lakh from the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI).
"I am an Olympic medallist, a World Champion but still a Grade IV employee in Indian Railways. It is a tragedy but that is a fact of life. The sports ministry had promised that any athlete who wins an Olympic or a World Championship medal will get the job of a Class I officer in the Sports Authority of India (SAI). But we are yet to get anything from SAI despite making repeated efforts," said Devendra.
"There is discrimination between able-bodied and para-athletes in our country. This should be wiped out. We, too, have won medals and brought laurels to the country."
Devendra said it was high time for the government to come up with a sports policy for para-athletes.
"The government is not doing anything for the para-athletes in a concrete manner. There should be a specific policy for us. While the Olympians get jobs, we get nothing," he said.
While growing up, Devendra, who hails from Rajasthan's Churu district, said he was made to feel by others that he was weak. But now he is happy that he has proved them wrong.
"While growing up, I was always made to feel that I was different from other children. They used to make me feel that I was weak. But today I have proved them wrong. I am as strong as they are," he said.