Government of India, India, Sports

Review: What is the status of Differently Abled Sports Persons in India?


Recent advertisements by an online learning platform introduced Deepa Malik, an Indian Paralympic medallist to the larger population. While facilities for promotion of sports among PWDs have improved lately, the recognition for achievers is still largely lacking. There is an urgent need to highlight them and their work. 

Recent advertisements by an online learning platform present Deepa Malik, a Paralympian as its brand ambassador. She is the first Indian woman to win a medal at Paralympics, a feat she achieved at 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In spite of this achievement, a majority of us are oblivious of her accomplishments, with our interest being sparked only after the appearance in the advertisements. 

This is the case even for other differently abled athletes who have won laurels for the country in various events, with most of them not well-known to the public at large.  Barring a few sports, the recognition gained by many of the sportspersons is minimal and this can partly be attributed to underperformance in international events. 

However, over the past two decades, Central & State governments along with various organizations have taken a keen interest in developing sports infrastructure and training in India, which has in part contributed to improved results. 

Does this encouragement and support extend even to differently abled sports persons? What is the extent of assistance and encouragement provided by governments to them?  In this story, we look at the policy provisions for encouraging sports among differently abled persons in India and explore the various government initiatives in this regard. 

State policy promotes encouragement of sports for persons with disabilities 

Section 3 of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 provisions for Equality and Non-discrimination towards persons with disabilities. Section 30 of the Act, more specifically lays out the guidelines to encourage effective participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in sporting activities. 

These include: 

  • Recognising and making provisions for inclusion in schemes & programmes related to development of sporting talent.
  • Restructuring of courses and redesigning of infrastructure to ensure access, inclusion & participation in all sports activities. 
  • Develop technology that aids in enhancing potential and ability in sporting activities. 
  • Provide essentials to in all sporting activities to ensure participation. 
  • Allocation of funds for development of infrastructure, training etc. 
  • Promote and organise events. 

‘Khelo India’ Scheme has provisions for promotion of sports among PWDs

The Government of India launched  ‘Khelo India’, the National Program for Development of Sports Scheme in 2017. As part of this initiative, it has also made provisions for encouragement and promotion of sports among PWDs. 

Accordingly, it has recognised three sport bodies to take up the responsibilities of promotion of sports, conduct of trainings, holding of competition etc. for various disabilities. 

  • Para Olympics Committee of India (PCI)  – Physically disabled persons. 
  • Special Olympics Bharat (SOB) – Mentally challenged persons. 
  • All India Sports Council of Deaf (AISCD) for Deaf and Dumb individuals. 

The conduct of various international competitions, the category of sports disciplines, rules, facilities required etc. vary for these three different types of disabilities and hence the separate sport bodies are given the responsibility.

Operational guidelines are also issued for Promotion of Sports among PWDs under the revised Khelo India Scheme.  As per these guidelines, an indicative amount of Rs. 15 crores would be utilised for various components under the scheme, that includes – creation of specialised infrastructure, establishment of training centres, provision for scholarships for coaching diploma, support for conduct and participation for various sporting events. 

Responding to a question in Lok Sabha in September 2020 , the government outlined the assistance extended to Differently abled sports persons. The following are mentioned by the government in that response. 

  • Sports Authority of India (SAI) also provides for the support for differently abled sports persons under various schemes. 
  • Promising sports persons & teams ( with disabilities) are identified under ‘Scheme of Assistance to Nations Sports Federations’ and provided with – equipment, infrastructure, nutritious food & supplements, lodging, traveling facilities, coaching services, medical support, etc along with participation in international competitions. 
  • Support for ‘elite athletes’ – infrastructure, training & participation in international events. 
  • SAI’s Netaji Subhas Western Centre, Gandhinagar serves as the main centre for sports activities related to differently- abled sports persons. 
  • Coaching camps for preparation to participate in various International competitions organised in different SAI centres – Gandhinagar, Sonepat, Bangalore. 
  • Top Para Athletes are provided assistance under ‘Target Olympic Podium’ Scheme (TOP Scheme), for winning medals in Olympics. There are currently 27 Para Athletes supported under TOP scheme for the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics 2021. 

60% of the funds allocated since 2017 have been utilised so far 

Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports allocates funds to the various National Sports Federations under ‘Scheme of Assistance to National Sports Federations’, to provide assistance to various athletes identified under respective sports disciplines & conduct of sports events. 

As mentioned earlier, three sports bodies have been recognised as National Sports Federations for Differently Abled Sportspersons. As per the update provided in Lok Sabha in September 2020, a total of Rs. 22.03 crores were allocated to Paralympics Committee of India for period 2017-21 (up to September 2021), of which Rs.13.16 crores have been utilised so far. 

During the same period, Special Olympic Bharat, which looks into the sports activities relating to Mentally challenged persons was allocated Rs. 14.26 crores of which Rs. 9.54 crores are utilized.  Similarly, All India Sports Council of Deaf was allocated Rs. 5.17 crores and it has utilized Rs. 3.16 crores as of September 2020. 

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Indian Paralympians recorded their best performance in 2016 Paralympic Games  

India made its debut in the Summer Paralympic games in 1968 and since then, India took part in 11 such events. India Paralympians have so far won 12 medals, which includes 4 each of Gold, Silver & Bronze. 

  • India won its first medal, a Gold in Swimming during 1972 Heidelberg games. 
  • The best tally was in the recent Rio games -2016, where Indian Paralympians won 4 medals. Apart from the aforementioned Silver medal by Deepa Malik, Indian athletes won 2 Gold and a Bronze medal. 
  • Out of the 12 Medals, 10 were won in Athletics, 1 for Swimming and 1 for Power lifting. 
  • India has never participated in Winter Paralympic games. 

Para Asian Games 

Para Asian Games were conducted for the first time in 2010, and Indian para-athletes took part in all the three events so far.

  • India recorded its best ever performance in the recent games conducted in 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia with a haul of 72 Medals (15 Gold, 24 Silver & 33 Bronze). 
  • Overall Indian Para-athletes won 119 medals so far (19 Gold, 42 Silver & 58 Bronze). 

Special Olympics World Games 

Special Olympics are conducted by International Olympic Committee for athletes with different Intellectual disabilities. These games are conducted around the world every day with ‘Special Olympics World Games’ being the flag ship event.  In the most recent such event i.e. 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, India athletes won 368 medals ( 85 Gold, 154 Silver & 129 bronze). 

Apart from these events, Indians have also performed well in other events like – World Para Shooting Championships, World Para Athletic Championships etc. as mentioned by the government in a recent response in Lok Sabha.  

Urgent need to promote the accomplishments of differently abled sports persons 

The data indicates a significant improvement in the performance of Indian differently abled sports persons in many of the recent international sporting events compared to that of previous years.

27 Indian Paralympians have already qualified for the next Paralympics i.e. Tokyo 2021, which could mean an opportunity to improve on the 2016 record of four medals. In 2016, 19 sportspersons (16 Men & 3 Women) were part of the Indian contingent in 5 sports.

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While improved success in performance of the athletes is evident, recognition among general public is still lacking and many of these sportspersons are largely unknown. The difference in recognition is very much evident if we compare with the medal winners of the general Olympics. 

On its part, the Government of India may have recognised various differently abled sport persons with State Civilian & Sports Awards over the years. However, much more needs to be done. While efforts towards promoting and encouraging differently abled individuals to take up sports is commendable, there is an urgent need to promote the achievers and their accomplishments amongst the general public.

Featured Image: Status of Differently Abled Sports Persons in India


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