The body of the missing Indian football player on tour in Australia was recovered and identified on Monday, even as officials began passing the buck of responsibility. The teenager, identified as Nitisha Negi, was part of the contingent that had travelled to Australia for the Pacific School Games; she had gone missing from Glenelg beach in Adelaide on Sunday.
At the home of the Negis’ in Khichripur, New Delhi, it’s been an anxious and sleepless night since the call from Adelaide, by an Australian official, informing them of Nitisha having gone missing last evening. On Monday, their worst fears were confirmed. Soon after search operations were resumed, 15-year-old Nitisha’s body was pulled out from near the breakwater.
The family alleges that through this ordeal, they have been frantically trying to get in touch with School Games Federation of India (SGFI) officials for answers but have met with little luck so far. It is at the behest of SGFI, headed by double Olympic champion Sushil Kumar, that the 150-plus students travelled for the invitational tournament.
Speaking to ESPN, Nitisha’s father, a teary Puran Singh Negi said, “We have lost what was most dear to us. SGFI has been irresponsible in taking so many children to the beach without any provision for ensuring their safety. Nitisha didn’t even know how to swim. Our entire family, relatives and neighbours have been camping at our house, watching TV news channels and hoping to hear some word from officials. We even got in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs and they promised us prompt action but we haven’t heard anything from them since. We are a poor family and we don’t know whom to turn to.”
Including Nitisha, five female athletes, all from New Delhi, were swept away by waves while clicking pictures during their trip to the South Australian beach. Four of them were rescued by surf lifesavers, of which two continue to remain in hospital. Saying that it was the first such instance he encountered in office, SGFI CEO and secretary general Dr Rajesh Mishra held the callous attitude of accompanying coaches partly responsible for the mishap, adding that the federation is in constant touch with the Indian High Commission in Australia for assistance.
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