By Jay Shankar
BANGALORE, India, May 28: The coach of India’s four-year-old marathon runner Budhia Singh says he will fight a ban imposed by authorities on the boy running.
He also says he wants over $US2,000 a month to support and train him.
I dream of him winning an Olympic medal. For that I'm ready to fight anyone and every battle,'' coach Biranchi Das told AFP on Saturday in the high-tech city of Bangalore where the pair attended a ceremony to honour the boy. Singh ran 63 kilometres in seven hours in a marathon earlier this month in his home state of Orissa but collapsed two kilometres short of the finish line and was taken to hospital. The Orissa state child welfare department imposed the ban on the boy doing any more distance running following a medical report saying he was undernourished, anaemic and under cardiological stress’’.
The report said Singh’s
pulse and blood pressure were on the higher side ... If the boy continues to run for long distance, it may aggravate the condition, may even result in renal failure.'' But Das, a judo instructor and coach, maintained the boy's health was normal’’ and said he wanted another medical opinion.
He's an asset to the nation,'' he said. It’s a pity that he’s surrounded by controversy. India has no marathon runners and when a kid starts running instead of supporting him the government is finishing his career.’’
Das, who has denied media charges that he is exploiting the boy, said he wanted $US2,022 a month to support and train him but was getting no sponsors due to the controversy.
The young boy sat in a chair on the stage biting his fingernails, scratching his head, making faces at the cameras and sometimes yawning during the ceremony held by a local press club to honour the runner as a
young achiever''. This is done to honour a child prodigy,’’ said the press club secretary Sadashiva Shenoy, refusing to comment on the controversy surrounding the boy.
India’s National Human Rights Commission has said it believes that the boy’s rights are being violated.
The boy, who ran several laps around the press club for reporters, said:
When I grow up all I want to do is to run.'' It’s the only thing I know. You tell me to run and I will run,’’ he said in his local Oriya language.
The boy was born in the slums of Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa state. His father was a beggar and mother earned a living by washing dishes.
When his father died, Singh’s mother, unable to feed her four children, sold him to a ribbon vendor for $US17 .
Das said he paid the same money to
adopt'' Budhia Singh and later trained him as a marathon runner. He came to me when he was three years. One day as a punishment, I told him to run and I forgot about it. When I met him after six hours he was still running,’’ Das said.
By Jay Shankar