Wheelchair cricketers protest against relocation

Protest by state & national level wheelchair cricketers  against their proposed relocation during pandemic

Wheelchair cricketers protest against relocation
Members of NGO Empower & Rotary Club, along with wheelchair cricketers taking part in a protest against the cricketers' unfair relocation process initiated by Chandigarh Administration during pandemic.

Chandigarh: Empower – an NGO for Special Children and few other NGOs' along-with wheelchair cricketers from the Wheelchair Cricket Society, held a demonstration in Sector 17 against the move of Social Welfare Department of Chandigarh Administration to relocate wheelchair cricketers staying at Cheshire Home, Sec 21 , here. The department is mulling sending these wheelchair cricketers who have brought multiple accolades at the national and international level too from Sector 21A to EWS Colony, Maloya, without their consent and proper facilities - the accommodation in Maloya is in a dilapidated state. Another option being given is relocation to Sec 42 stadium, but here  too many areas are inaccessible for the physically challenged players. It is to be noted that the administration has decided to convert the Cheshire Home into a home for the mentally ill without taking any of the stakeholders into confidence.


Veer Sandhu, Captain, Punjab wheelchair cricket team , who is also a member of the Indian wheelchair cricket team said, “We have been asked to shift to EWS Flats in Maloya at a monthly rent of Rs 3000, excluding the water and electricity bills. We don't have any source of income and despite our contribution to bringing laurels to the country and Chandigarh through our performance on the sports field we are being treated like this. The other accommodation of Sec 42 stadium is also not wheelchair friendly." 


 The move of administration has come under fire from the wheelchair cricketers and the NGOs' aligned with them  as questions are being raised on why a rushed declaration in the newspaper calling bids from NGOs' has been made at a short notice, without providing any information to the wheelchair residents  of Cheshire Home. Eyebrows are also being raised as all this is being amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It is to be noted that a  bid has been invited from NGOs' before 15th December for involvement in creation of the Home for Mentally ill at Cheshire Home.


Sharmita Bhinder, Founder, Empower - NGO for Special Children, said, “Our NGO and other like-minded and helpful citizens and philanthropists have been supporting these residents in maintenance and provision of essential items like food etc since 2015. The UT Administration has shown apathetic and inhuman behaviour towards these occupants with this one sided decision. They are being asked to vacate the building without any prior notice or consultation. We were waiting for a dialogue and a solution since our last letter dated 24th September, 2020 to the administration but instead of resolving the impasse the authorities are trying to bulldoze  the wheelchair cricketers' opinions."


Till January 2020, the only effort made by the Social Welfare Department for the welfare of occupants was getting the electrical repairs done. From 2015 till Jan 2020 the Wheelchair Cricket Society, with the help of local NGOs like Chandigarh Friends, Rotary Club, Baba Rode Shah and others have spent their own money to take care of food, clothing, bedding, cleaning, whitewash and repair work with the UT Administration providing no funding for the same.


Bhinder added, “Crores of rupees are sanctioned to the Social Welfare Department. Yet the residents have been funding most of the things themselves and with the support of a few NGOs. An amount of over Rs 6 lakh donated by people has been used to make the dilapidated building livable. In case the  department is hell bent to make this an ego issue and go ahead with the relocation then it should pay back the wheelchair cricketers what they have invested by donation in the building and also provide alternative wheelchair-friendly accommodation.”


On the other hand, the group pursuing the Mental Health Home has categorically said in its communication, that the Sector 21 building is inadequate for them and it cannot even house 30 residents. The building has only 8 rooms and 2 halls in total, whereas a mental health facility will require few other rooms for doctor, staff, counseling, therapy, dining and recreation area. While the group has a requirement of accommodation for 70 residents.


Members of the NGO and Rotary Club Zirakpur have suggested that Indira Holiday Home can be a better option for the mentally ill persons, as it has many rooms, multiple floors, auditorium, halls and lawns for recreation.


Bhinder is of the view that the bid and appointment of the NGO should be stopped immediately and a proper policy be formulated after a joint meeting of the administration and the residents of Cheshire Home, the people supporting them and the group seeking to establish a Mental Health Group Home.