This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Merril Diniz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

18 Facts About Our Amazing Indian Para-Athletes And Why They Deserve More Support

More from Merril Diniz

By Merril Diniz:

India made its Paralympics debut in 1968 and so far, we have bagged 10 medals (2 at 2016 Paralympics in Rio), despite missing out on a few games. Not bad for a country that offers little to no support to its sportspeople, especially para-athletes. In the 2012 London Paralympics, a contingent of 10 athletes, all men, returned with one silver. This year, 17 were to participate. But when the Russian team was disqualified on account of a state-sponsored doping programme, two more Indian para-athletes got an opportunity, bringing the total number to 19.

What they’re up against at the 2016 Paralympic Games at Rio, is a total of 4,350 athletes from 176 countries, competing in 23 sports. According to the International Olympic Committee, over 1.8 million tickets have been sold. What’s interesting about this particular Indian contingent is that it is made up of athletes who have won medals at the national and international level, and are world-renowned in their fields. Yet, so many of us know little about them, which is why YKA will be bringing you updates from the event in the next few weeks. So, watch this space.

To kick things off, here are 18 important things you need to know about this year’s games:

1. Of the 19 parathletes, we have three women and 16 men (many from rural backgrounds) who have struggled a great deal to excel and make the cut for the world stage.

2. The Indian contingent will be participating in the following events: archery, 1500m, high jump, javelin, powerlifting, club throw, discus throw, shot put, shooting and swimming.

3. Ace javelin thrower, Devendra Jhajharia, who won India’s first Paralympics gold medal in Athens in 2004, was the flagbearer at the opening ceremony.


4. Approximately 72% of the team is ranked in the world’s top 10 in their sport, with the lowest rank being 14.

5. A total of 2,642 medals (877 gold, 876 silver and 889 bronze) are up for grabs. What’s interesting is that each medal has a device inside, that uses tiny steel balls to make a sound when they are shaken. This innovation will help sportspeople with a visual impairment, “experience” their medals.

6. This contingent has India’s first fully blind para athlete Ankur Dhama, who will be participating in the 1500m race. An alumnus of St Stephen’s College, Ankur is originally from U.P., and moved to Delhi for education. He bagged three medals at the Asian Para Games in 2014.

7. Powerlifter and World No. 6, Farman Basha made Team India’s debut with the powerlifting event on September 8, 2016. He missed a bronze medal and emerged fourth, still a significant achievement for India.


8. In the spirit of a recurring trend – one that’s damaging for our athletes – Pooja, an archer from Rohtak, was denied the chance to be accompanied by her coach Sanjay Suhag, because the Indian Paralympic Council did not deem it necessary. Pooja recently won a gold medal in the Senior Para National Archery Championships.

9. Deepa Malik, a paraplegic with an impressive medal in sports like the discus and javelin, has entered the Limca Book of World Records three times for her road trips on bike and car, across rough terrains. In Rio, she is aiming to bag India’s first gold medal in the shot put category. She has won 54 national gold medals and 13 international ones, till date.

10. A great coach is an asset and Satyapal Singh is one such individual who has trained several Indian para athletes. He apparently channelises his earnings from his day job as a teacher at the Acharya Narendra Dev College, Delhi, into training his athletes. He even funded Ankur for his Paralympic qualifier in Dubai, since the sports authorities refused to do it. Yet, despite all his efforts, he’s not been allowed to travel to Rio to support Ankur.

11. And here’s yet another facepalm for our Paralympic Committee of India, who seem to have forgotten what the Indian flag looks like! Parathelete and accessibility rights advocate Pradeep Raj calls them out on social media.


12. The high jump segment is especially worth noting for India; it features three Indians who dominate the rankings at World Rank No 1, 2 and 3 – Tamil Nadu’s Mariyappan Thangavelu, Uttar Pradesh’s Varun Bhati and Bihar’s Sharad Kumar.

13. Varun Bhati, 21, considered a sort of wonderkid of the high jump, recently won a gold in the IPC World Athletics Championship in Dubai. He has won the bronze medal at Rio for men’s high jump.

14. Mariyappan, 20, also a high jump specialist, has a phenomenal story of grit and determination. Hailing from a poor family from Salem district, Tamil Nadu, he went on to win a gold medal at the IWAS World Junior Games 2015 in the Netherlands, and he repeated the victory by winning a gold medal at Rio in men’s high jump.

15. Bihar’s Sharad Kumar made headlines in 2012 due to allegations of doping. But he proved his critics wrong when he won gold at the 2014 Para Asian Games at Incheon, while also breaking a 12-year Asian Games record!

16. Twitterati with a keen interest in sports and the Paralympics can follow all the excitement on these timelines: Paralympic India and Paralympics

17. Our PMO cheered the team on with a tweet.

But our sportspersons are not buying it, because unlike the Olympics 2016, no television channel including the state player Doordarshan, has come forward to telecast the event.

18. To tackle this head on, press conferences were held in Kolkata and Delhi around this national shame. After some much-needed media coverage, and negotiations with the powers that be, YKA was informed by Pradeep Raj that Indian viewers will finally get to watch the Paralympics on TV. However, not live. Sony will telecast highlights through its two sports channels – SIX and ESPN, in two sessions of one hour daily.

If you feel strongly on the issue, tweet to the @PMO, and ask a simple question: How do we #CheerForIndia when no TV channels are broadcasting 2016 Rio Paralympics?

With inputs from Suchandra Ganguly, disability rights activist and Founder of Civilian Welfare Foundation.

You must be to comment.
  1. Devika Malik

    Factual errors in the article:
    Point 3: Devendra is India’s SECOND Paralympic Gold Medalist, after swimmer Murlikant Petkar in 1972
    Point 4: The lowest World Rank was 55th (Pooja’s rank prior to the beginning of Paralympics)
    Point 9: Deepa Malik is entered in the Limca Records Book FOUR Times. 58 national medals (gold+silver+bronze) and SEVENTEEN International Medals till date
    Point 10: Please take cognizance of the fact that The number of officials and support staff allowed to accompany the athletes was limited by the international authorities. And having the escorts of the most severely disabled athletes be a part of the contingent was indispensable.
    Point 17: Firstly, it was initially believed that STAR bought the rights for Paralympics along with Olympics. Since they found out this is not the case, Sony has been making efforts to get rights to broadcast live or highlights since mid August. Secondly, now DD Sports will also be telecasting highlights at 9pm daily.
    Please make necessary corrections and update.

More from Merril Diniz

Similar Posts

By Sharbari Ghosh

By Atypical Advantage

By Ungender Legal Advisory

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below