India's blind para-athlete forced to beg in Berlin street

Indian para-athlete Kanchanmala Pande
Indian para-athlete Kanchanmala Pande

Kanchanmala Pande, a completely blind para-athlete swimmer from Nagpur, was left to beg on the streets of Berlin during the Para-Swimming Championships from July 3- 9. Pande, who swims in the S11 category had to resort to no other choice to foot her expenses for lodging and food, after the sponsorship money from Sports Authority of India was not released by Paralympic Committee of India (PCI).

"I was not given any official confirmation if I would receive a reimbursement for the expenses I bore. I had to pay around Rs 70,000 (£844) for the hotel and more than Rs 40,000 (£482) for food," Kanchanmala told Mail Today yesterday.

'No coach to help me'
To add to her woes, Pande's name was added in the 50m backstroke category by PCI, instead of the 100m category. Her coach Kanwaljeet Singh from PCI was allegedly not around for help.

"He didn't help me at all. I used to go back to the hotel just with my escort and God knows where he used to be. Once, I took a tram from the tournament venue to my hotel and I had no money. I had to travel without a ticket and was caught by the checker who later fined me £120 (about Rs 10,000)," she added. Despite the hardships, Kanchanmala won the silver medal in the Individual medley. PTI adds: Asserting that funds were released by the government on time for para-athletes, Sports Minister Vijay Goel sought a report.

"The Ministry through SAI released Rs 3.21 Lakhs as 75 per cent of dues as advance payment to Para Olympic Committee of India (PCI) in time and arranged tickets etc," the ministry said in a release.

'Totally unacceptable'
Abhinav Bindra expressed his anger on social media.

"This is unacceptable. People must be held accountable," Bindra wrote on his twitter handle. Indian Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi and Somdev Devvarman also reacted.

"'Against all Odds' has been every sportspersons story in India, but at some level this is an all time low," tweeted Bhupathi.

"Horrible stuff to read... Changes need to be made in the way we perceive sport and run it... The current system is a shame," Devvarman wrote.