In 2017, four Indians won medals at the Deaflympics held in Turkey. All of them are from Haryana: Virender Singh won a gold medal in 74 kg Freestyle Wrestling while Ajay Kumar and Sumit Dahiya won bronze in 65 kg and 97 kg Freestyle Wrestling respectively. And Diksha Dagar won a silver medal in individual golf. All of them are still waiting to get the reward money promised to them for bringing sporting honour to the country.
In 2015, the Haryana government included Deaflympians in its sports policy. At the time, Singh—a seven-time medallist for India and an Arjuna Awardee—still hadn’t even been paid for a previous victory.
A year later, Haryana announced cash awards for Paralympians equivalent to Olympic prizes: Rs. 6 crore to gold medalists, Rs. 4 crore to silver medalists, and Rs. 2.5 crore to bronze medalists. A month before the 2017 Deaflympics, the Haryana government responded to an RTI filed by filmmaker Vivek Chowdhary, saying that it would pay Deaflympians equal money to Paralympians (and by extension, Olympians). But after the big wins—poof.
According to Singh, athletes didn’t even get “pocket allowance” while in Turkey. And when he raised a protest after his return, he was banned from wrestling by the All India Sports Council for the Deaf (AISCD).
“We keep going to offices of sports ministries, in Haryana and the central government, but nothing happens,” said Rambir Dagar, Virender’s friend, who helps him with navigating interviews and other processes.
When it comes to the central government, according to the Scheme of Special Awards to Medal Winners in International Sports Events, last amended in May 2018, Deaflympian medalists should receive Rs. 15, 10, and 5 lakh for Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. The Deaflympians allege that they haven’t received anything.
Earlier this year, the AISCD filed two complaints against the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports with the Court of Chief Commissioner For Persons with Disabilities, against the unfair treatment of Deaflympians. In both judgements, the SAI was “advised to [...] give due weightage to deaf sportspersons for providing the cash awards and the financial assistance to the Deaf sportspersons at par with the Para sportspersons”.
Under pressure, the Haryana government quietly forked out a random Rs. 1.2 crore to Virender Singh in May this year, and Rs. 42 lakh each to Kumar and Dahiya. Diksha Dagar is still to be paid.
The Deputy Secretary to Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Shiv Pratap Singh Tomar, told VICE that the Deaflympians should receive their money, but they have to file paperwork. According to Virender Singh, the paperwork has long been filed by the AISCD. VICE received no further comment from the AISCD’s office in response to questions sent over email.
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