(This column first appeared in The Hindu on September 6, 2021)
- India saw another fortnight of good tidings in sports from Tokyo. Close on the heels of the recent Olympics there, in which India claimed an overall tally of seven medals inclusive of a lone gold, the country’s differently-abled athletes extended this tale of excellence into the Paralympic Games. The quadrennial event, which concluded at the Japanese capital on Sunday, witnessed an exemplary show by these athletes representing 2.2% of India’s population, who are differently-abled. India finished 24th in the table with 19 medals that featured five golds, eight silvers and six bronzes. This was India’s finest outing at the Paralympics and eclipsed the previous best of four medals at the Rio de Janeiro edition in 2016. In a nation where sporting culture is sacrificed at the altar of academic excellence, any news about success on the turf has to be treated as a system-altering result. The challenges for the differently-abled are tougher, considering the body’s limitations that these athletes first cope with through sheer willpower, and then there is the secondary task of overcoming society’s innate scepticism. A simple access-audit of India’s urban buildings would reveal how even a ramp essential for the differently-abled is either missing or added as an after-thought. In 2016, an audit initiated by government agencies did not find a single building that was completely accessible to the differently-abled.