Paralympic athletes who have won accolades and medals for India during the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games will be treated at par with the country's Olympic athletes, and will also be considered for the prestigious Khel Ratna awards.
Union Minister Vijay Goel made the announcement on Saturday, on a trip to Hyderabad, where he visited the badminton academy run by India's chief national selector Pullela Gopichand.
Goel met with Gopichand and PV Sindhu, India's only female silver medalist at the Olympic Games. According to a report in The Times of India, Goel said all Paralympic athletes will qualify for the Khel Ratna. "All the Paralympic medalists will be treated at par with other Olympic medalists," he said.
Currently, an Olympic medal winning athlete automatically qualifies for the Khel Ratna, a provision that hitherto wasn't in place for the Paralympians. Goel's confirmation comes just days after the sports minister had refused to commit to whether the government was considering a move to this effect. "Our Paralympians have made India proud winning four medals so far in Rio Paralympics. But on the issue of awards, till now there has been no decision on any such policy for Paralympians. We will take up the matter," Goel had said in New Delhi on Wednesday.
But on Saturday, Goel said the country is proud of its Paralympians. "Paralympic athletes brought a huge honour to the country. We are proud of them and they will be rewarded in the same manner like Sindhu and Sakshi," he said, according to the report.
Indian athletes have so far won four medals (two golds, one silver and one bronze) in the Paralympic Games, which end on Sunday. After Mariyappan Thangavelu won gold in men's T42 high jump, Varun Bhati claimed bronze in men's T42 high jump and Deepa Malik took home silver in women's shotput F53 event. Javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia then bettered his own world record to win his career's second Olympic gold in the F46 event.