Just being an Olympian makes you an elite sportsperson. It should be bringing you fame and wealth but a lot of the time, and this seems to be a cycle with us, it almost doesn’t matter if you represented your country at the highest levels or won medals to make it proud, the state will continue to be apathetic towards you.
1. Makhan Singh
Makhan Singh is the only Indian to have beaten Milkha Singh, in the 400-meter race. He was a part of the Indian men’s 4×400 meter relay and 4×100 meter relay teams in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. However, he lost his leg in an accident and then had to live out the rest of his days in poverty.
2. Shankar Laxman
Laxman played 3 successive Olympics finals for India and was also a member of the gold-winning hockey squad of 1956 and 1958. But he too died in abject poverty at the age of 73, suffering from gangrene.
3. Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav
Jadhav bagged Bronze in the freestyle 57 kg category at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, becoming the first winner of an individual medal after 1947. Unfortunately, he was deprived of his pension during his last days and passed away in abject poverty.
4. Major Dhyan Chand
Arguably India’s greatest sportsperson, whose birthday is also celebrated at National Sports Day, Major Dhyan Chand scored more than 400 goals during his international career. But he too, spent later part of his life in absolute poverty and passed away penniless.
5. Sita Sahu
Sita Sahu, a medalist at the Special Olympics in Athens in 2011 from Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, had resort to selling golgappas for a living. Speaking to reporters, she had said:
I don’t even remember the last time my family had a complete meal. We have been forced to sell chaats as my husband cannot take on a physically demanding job. This is our only source of income and life has been going on like this for the past many years. The lack of support or empathy occasionally does demoralise me; even the government has not helped us.
It was only 3 years after that the government rewarded her a sum of Rs 3 lakh.
There are countless other sportspersons in this country who continue to suffer from similar fates. And it is our responsibility to tell the government that they cannot except the poor of this country to win medals for the country while it continues to fail them.