This wheelchair-bound weightlifter inspires many (Dec 3 is World Disability Day)

By Rahul Vaishnavi, IANS
Friday, December 3, 2010

NEW DELHI - Polio bound him to a wheelchair and he faced ridicule the first time he visited a gym. But Joginder Singh Saluja fought the odds to become a weightlifter who is an inspiration for thousands of disabled people.

The 24-year-old, who contracted polio when he was just 10 months old, will receive the National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities from President Pratibha Patil Friday - World Disability Day - under the ‘Role Model’ category.

“It’s like a dream come true for me. I am getting this award because of the work I have done for the physically-disabled in the past six years. My hard work has been rewarded,” an elated Saluja told IANS.

Instituted in 1969, the awards are sponsored by the social justice and empowerment ministry to empower the disabled every year. A total of 63 awards will be presented this year under 13 different categories.

“This award is very special for me. I am the youngest person ever to receive it. I’ve been working in tandem with the Delhi University authorities to counsel the numerous disabled students who come to the varsity from all corners of the country every year,” Saluja said.

He said he has been assisting them in their admission process and selection of college every year for the last six years.

“I have been constantly advising the University Grants Commission (UGC) on how to make Delhi University more and more disabled friendly. And there has been a sea change in the last six years in the varsity,” said a proud Saluja.

Saluja said he had participated in many events organised by the Paralympic Committee of India and won numerous gold and silver medals in weightlifting.

“I am a national level weightlifter and have won the Mr. India title in bodybuilding and power-lifting several times,” he said.

An alumnus of Khalsa College, he graduated in arts stream in 2008 and is the youngest of four siblings. He owns his own gym, Workout Wonders, in east Delhi.

“Differently-abled people - from students to senior citizens - can work out for free in my gym while others have to pay a monthly fee of Rs.1,600,” Saluja said.

His father who inspired and motivated him the most is also suffering from locomotors disability as a result of an accident that took place years ago.

“My family has been my driving force all along. My father truly encouraged me to reach where I am today,” Saluja said.

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