Parents of TT star who died await relief, Govt cites rules

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It’s been well over a month since their son, national-ranked TT player Vishwa Deenadayalan, lost his life in a road accident while on his way to Shillong for an inter-state tournament, and his parents are still waiting for a word from Sports Authority of India (SAI) over insurance cover under the Government’s flagship

Khelo India — an initiative to “establish India as a great sporting nation”.

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The 18-year-old’s death on the road from Guwahati to Shillong on April 17 had come as a shock to the sporting world with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur extending their condolences.

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But Vishwa’s father Deenadayalan told The Indian Express that it has been over three weeks since he wrote to the Sports Ministry and SAI on the issue of insurance coverage but hasn’t received a reply yet.

“We had great hopes for Vishwa. He kept telling me he would qualify for the World Championships this year. I used to pray to God to keep me alive till I saw him play in the Olympics. But he’s no more. We have lost everything,” the father said, choking up with emotion.

Deenadayalan, 58, is unemployed after losing his job with an MNC’s HR department in Chennai in 2020. His wife, Anuradha, manages their home in the city. “We have managed with my savings,” he said.

When contacted by The Indian Express, SAI said in a statement that Vishwa was not covered under its rules since he was “not a trainee at National Centre of Excellence or Khelo India accredited academy in the last cycle (June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022).”

Also read |Vishwa could have been the finest in the country: Sharath Kamal

The Tamil Nadu player was a sub-junior and junior national champ, and part of the senior India team set-up. Seen as a rising star, he used to train at the Krishnaswamy TT club in Chennai, a non-accredited centre.

Despite SAI’s response to this newspaper, a document uploaded on the Khelo India website does not differentiate between accredited or non-accredited academies. Under the sub-head “Funding to Khelo India Athlete (KIA) trained in non accredited academies”, the authority details the allowance allowed with this line at the end: “They will also be given benefit of insurance claim.”

Deenadayalan said he had “seen the document that all Khelo India athletes were insured” and “read in newspapers” about it — and all he wants is for the Government to look at the case “sympathetically” since his son was “on national duty” 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 any personal trip. The Government should consider the case sympathetically and pay the coverage of Rs 25 lakh that all Khelo India athletes get because the athletes are national assets,” he said.

Asked about the norms posted on its website, SAI said: “In the insurance cycle from June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022, Khelo India athletes in SAI National Centre of Excellence and Khelo India accredited centres were insured, centrally. Athletes training in a non-accredited academy were allowed insurance claims reimbursement if they do their insurance on their own.”

Vishwa’s father says he wasn’t apprised of the policy. “If this was the case, we should have been told, and we would have taken private insurance and submitted the necessary documents,” he said.

The Khelo India (KI) programme was launched in 2018 with the aim of developing sports at the grassroots level. Promising players shortlisted by the KI committee are provided financial assistance of 5 lakh per annum apart from other benefits.

SAI said in its statement that it would extend support to the family. “SAI has advised the family to apply for a one-time grant under Deendayal Upadhyaya fund from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports,” it said. Under this fund, an athlete is entitled to about Rs 5 lakh in all.

There has been no written communication from SAI, the father said.

On April 17, Vishwa was travelling from Guwahati to Shillong with three teammates to participate in the tournament when a trailer truck ploughed through the divider and smashed into their car.

Vishwa was declared “brought dead” by the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences. His teammates — R Santosh Kumar, S Abinash Prasannaji and D Kishore Kumar — suffered injuries in the accident.

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