Will Haryana Chief Minister listen to Padma Shri wrestler’s silent demand?

Hearing impared international level wrestler Virender Singh is sitting on protest with his Padma award, asking the Manohar Lal Khattar led Haryana gov't to give deaf athletes their due

Padma ShriImage Courtesy:indianexpress.com

Wrestler Virender Singh Yadav was recently conferred the Padma Shri award for his achievement in sports. A deaf and mute athlete, he then went on to do something that may make a loud noise in the days to come, especially if the mainstream TV media reaches him soon.

Yadav, wearing his many hard earned medals, and holding the scroll containing his Padma award citation, is now sitting in protest outside Hayana Bhawan in Delhi. He took to Twitter to share the news that he will sit in protest till Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar recognises the state’s hearing impared sports persons as para-athletes. Singh, who was born in Sasroli near Jhajjar in Haryana, cannot speak or hear, but has already made a brave and loud statement with his act of demanding the rights for others like him. He asked the Haryana CM, “Sir, I am sitting on the footpath of your residence Delhi Haryana Bhawan and I will not move from here till you will give equal rights to deaf players like para players, when the Center gives us equal rights then why not you?”

Ironically Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had taken to Twitter to congratulate Singh when he received the Padma Award a few days ago. Khattar had hailed Singh as a “son of Haryana and para wrestler” after he won the award.

In the Deaflympics, Singh won three gold and a bronze medal in the 74 kg category and has now demanded that he wants the same rights,  prize money and accolades as para athletes. He said, “For the past four years, I have been running from pillar to post. I am a junior coach even today and have not received any cash award,” adding that he had also spoken to the Prime Minister yesterday, and that the decision was now for Khattar to take.

Singh, who is also known as the ‘Goonga Pehelwan’, received the Padma Shri from President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Tuesday. By Wednesday, Singh posted a photo of himself sitting on the footpath outside the Haryana Bhawan here holding on to the Padma Shri, with the Arjuna Award trophy and many other medals. Singh has hinted that he has been denied the rights accorded to Paralympic athletes. According to reports, the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD)  is the body which conducts sports events specifically for sportspersons who are only deaf. The Deaflympics, though recognised by the International Paralympic Committee, are not a part of the Paralympic Games. Hence the hearing impaired athletes do not get the same benefits that Paralumpians get in India as indicated by Singh.

Virender Singh won his first gold at the 2005 Deaflympics, where he had to spend ₹70,000 of his own, reported The Bridge. But as the win didn’t bring any recognition he deserved. Virender had to resort to participating in village dangals to support himself.

As reported by the Indian Express a few months ago, in 2007, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was ratified by India and pursuant to it the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPD Act) was enacted. “Section 30 of the RPD Act elaborates on the measures that have to be undertaken to ensure sporting rights of Indians with disabilities. It mandates restructuring of courses and programmes to ensure access, inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in sporting activities; redesigning infrastructure; developing technology to enhance potential and talent; allocation of funds, etc.,” stated the news report. However, it added, “The Paralympic Committee of India, Special Olympics Bharat and the All-India Sports Council for the Deaf — have all failed in complying with the mandates of the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011.” It is yet to be seen how CM Khattar responds to this public expose by Padma Shri Virender Singh.


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