Does a Paralympics gold medal shine less brighter than an Olympics gold? For India, given the treatment meted out to Olympic athletes/medal-winners vis-a-vis Paralympics ones, the answer is an unfortunate ‘yes’. While the nation rejoiced in the medals that PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik won at the Rio Olympics, government and private agencies showed their appreciation by showering them with crores of rupees in gifts and rewards—according to the Huffington Post, Sindhu got Rs 13 crore while Malik got Rs 5 crore. In sharp contrast, Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Singh Bhati, who won gold and bronze medals, respectively, at the Rio Paralympics, have received a muted response—only the sports ministry, the Tamil Nadu and UP governments have offered them cash rewards.
The Economic Times points out this was the case even at the last Olympics/Paralympics—HN Girisha, who won a silver medal, was treated as a sideshow to those who excelled at the Olympics. India is, sadly, leagues away from being a nation that respects athletes and sportspersons from across the spectrum of diversity. While rewarding athletes is important, the government would do well to spend money on them before, and not after, they reach the Olympics or perform well in international sporting events so that we can have more medal-winners.