Veteran Athlete Lives In Penury by Ravi Dhaliwal (Note: This articles dates back to 2000, there is a even a remote chance that Joginder Singh is even alive, but his story speaks for thousands others like him...) Even as the Punjab Government's apathy towards ace athletes of yesteryears is being constantly highlighted, here comes the story of the State Government's insensitivity towards a 107-year old athlete, Joginder Singh, widely perceived to be one of the world's finest veteran athlete. Joginder Singh, who has brought glory to the state and the country, taking part in scores of veteran international athletic meets and setting a world record and now a victim of government's pathetic attitude, also has a book written on his eventful life by a Punjab based IPS officer, IG Rajinder Singh. The book details his various achievements in the track and field events and has already sold more than 7000 copies. Joginder Singh was born in Patiala on June 12, 1892 (the date mentioned on his passport) and his story is indeed a sad commentary on the state's affairs, which prides itself on the achievements of its sportspersons. Now the 107-year old athlete has been reduced to forlorn figure of his former self with no financial support forthcoming from the state government. In 1998, when the Minister of Human Resources and Development, Mr M.M. Joshi visited the National Institute of Sports (NIS), IG Rajinder Singh brought to the minister's notice the pitiable condition in which Joginder Singh was living. The minister at that time, immediately asked the Executive Director of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Maj O.P. Bhatia, provide financial support to Joginder Singh. However, things failed to move and nothing has been heard since then. In the 1991 International Veterans Athletics meet in Turku, Finland, Joginder competing in the 95-plus age category, set a world record by clearing a distance of 4.51 meters in the long jump. There he befriended a former Russian minister, who was competing in the 60-plus category. After the meet, the minister impressed by Joginder Singh's feats took him to Moscow for a visit. However loneliness, lack of communication and the biting cold proved to be too much for Joginder Singh. After three days, he asked the former minister to send him back to Delhi. The minister, Joginder Singh recalls, immediately booked a flight for him and also gave him $300 in cash. Joginder Singh won the gold in 100 meters, setting a record, in the Oceania world veterans championships held at Hastings, New Zealand in 1997. Competing in the 100 plus category he ran the race in 16.39 seconds. However, this record has yet to be ratified by the international body governing veterans athletics. At Hastings, according to a news agency report with Joginder Singh, he was the oldest of the 500 athletes by 20 years. Joginder Singh’s son, Varinderjit, committed suicide in 1925 when he failed to clear an exam while his wife passed away at Patiala a couple of years ago. Now, Joginder Singh lives in abject poverty in a one room ramshackle tenement in a run-down mohalla of the old city. In order to afford atleast one square meal a day, he is dependent on small-time shopkeepers - some of whom are his old acquaintances - and on the benevolence of some police officers. His rapport with police officers may be due to the fact that he was in the police department, posted at Payal, Ludhiana, from 1945 to 1952. He cannot avail the benefits of pension as he did not complete 10 years of service. Joginder Singh, who also took part in the freedom struggle, claims that he tried to meet the then Chief Minister Beant Singh and also Mr. Badal, but he was prevented from meeting them by the security officers. However he managed to meet Beant Singh at a function in Sangrur. Beant Singh asked a close aide to look into Joginder Singh's case and provide monetary support. Things started to look brighter as from 1992 to 1997, he started receiving Rs1,500 per month. But after 1997, this money was abruptly stopped by the government. In 1993, floods swept away his trunk load of medals. He does not remember the number of medals won in international and national meets, but simply says they weighed between 6 to 8 kilos. His certificates and other household items were also washed away. The roof of his room caved in as his neighbours say, it was IG Rajinder Singh, who visited Joginder Singh everyday and got the roof repaired. In a voice choked with emotion and with tears slowly rolling down his wrinkled face, he says: Only death will repay my debts. If the government has not done anything for me, at least it should ensure a decent funeral for me when I die. These days Joginder Singh rarely goes out of his room with a cot surrounded by medicines and couple of old rusty trophies. A sad way to live for a man who brought laurels to his state and country. If a nation does not respect its heroes, past or present, the time will come when it will have none.