Parents of deceased table tennis star await relief, government cites rules
It’s been well over a month since their son, a nationally ranked TT player Vishwa Deenadayalan, lost his life in a road accident as he traveled to Shillong for an interstate tournament, and his parents are still awaiting word from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) about insurance coverage under government flagship Khelo India – a move to ” establish India as a great sporting nation”.
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The death of the 18-year-old on the road from Guwahati to Shillong on April 17 came as a shock to the sports world, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur offering their condolences.
But Vishwa’s father Deenadayalan said The Indian Express that it has been more than three weeks since he wrote to the Ministry of Sports and the ISC about insurance coverage, but has yet to receive a response.
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“We had high hopes for Vishwa. He kept telling me that he would qualify for the World Championships this year. I used to pray to God to keep me alive until I see him play in the Olympics. But he is no more. We lost everything,” the father said, choked with emotion.
Deenadayalan, 58, is unemployed after losing his job in the human resources department of a multinational company in Chennai in 2020. His wife, Anuradha, manages their home in the city. “We succeeded with my savings,” he said.
Contacted by The Indian Express, SAI said in a statement that Vishwa was not covered by his rules as he was “not a trainee at the National Center of Excellence or Khelo India Accredited Academy in the last cycle (from June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022).
The Tamil Nadu player was a sub-junior and junior national champion, and was part of the Indian senior team setup. Considered a rising star, he trained at the Krishnaswamy TT club in Chennai, an unaccredited centre.
Despite SAI’s response to this log, a document uploaded to Khelo India’s website does not distinguish between accredited and unaccredited academies. Under the caption “Funding of Indian Athlete Khelo (KIA) Trained in Unaccredited Academies,” the authority details the allowed allowance with this line at the end: “They will also benefit from an insurance claim .”
Deenadayalan said he had ‘seen the document that all Khelo India athletes were insured’ and ‘read in the papers’ about it – and all he wants is for the government to look into the case “with sympathy” since his son was “in national service” when the accident occurred.
“The accident happened to my son while he was on duty to represent Tamil Nadu in the Senior National Table Tennis Championship. It is quite clear that he was on national duty and not on a personal trip. The government should consider the matter sympathetically and pay the Rs 25 lakh cover that all Khelo India athletes get because the athletes are national assets,” he said.
Asked about the standards published on its website, SAI said, “In the insurance cycle from June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022, Khelo India athletes from SAI National Center of Excellence and Khelo India Accredited Centers were insured so centralized. Athletes who trained at an unaccredited academy were entitled to reimbursement of insurance claims if they insured themselves.
Vishwa’s father says he was unaware of the policy. “If that was the case, we should have been told, and we would have taken out private insurance and submitted the necessary documents,” he said.
The Khelo India (KI) program was launched in 2018 with the aim of developing the sport at the grassroots level. Promising players shortlisted by the KI committee receive financial aid of 5 lakh per year in addition to other benefits.
SAI said in her statement that she would support the family. “SAI advised the family to apply for a one-time grant under the Deendayal Upadhyaya Fund of the Ministry of Youth and Sports,” he said. Under this fund, an athlete is entitled to about Rs 5 lakh in all.
There was no written communication from SAI, the father said.
On April 17, Vishwa was traveling from Guwahati to Shillong with three teammates to compete in the tournament when a trailer truck drove through the splitter and rammed their car.
Vishwa was declared “brought in dead” by the Indira Gandhi Northeast Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences. His teammates – R Santosh Kumar, S Abinash Prasannaji and D Kishore Kumar – were injured in the crash.
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