From Slums to Stardom, a Journey of Pain and Controversies – Budhia Singh

Budhia Awooga Singh , born in 2002 is an Indian boy and the world’s youngest marathon runner. He was born in the state of Odisha. He ran from Bhubaneswar to Puri at the age of four covering 65 kilometres (40 mi) in seven hours and two minutes and was listed as the world’s youngest marathon runner in the Limca book of world records in the year 2006. By the age of four, Budhia had run and completed 48 marathons.

Budhia came to fame after his mother sold him to a passing peddler for 800 rupees. He was taken in by India’s top judo coach, Biranchi Das, who spotted his talent as a runner and began training him.

As Budhia became more famous by the day, a number of people started accusing Biranchi Das for exploiting the young child. The first one to come forth with these claims was Budhia’s mother. The coach was then arrested on charges of “physically torturing” a minor but was soon released. Then it was the turn of the Indian Government which never cared for him when he was living in slums and in extreme poverty or when he was unable to get food even once in a day, suddenly started showing that they really cared for young Budhia. In 2006, Orissa state authorities banned Budhia from long-distance running. Biranchi Das was charged with intimidation and torture, though the charges were later dropped.

In 2008, Biranchi Das was murdered.

Today, Budhia is a boarding pupil at a government-run sports hostel in Orissa, where he is treated like any other child. Rupanwita Panda, who is the athletics coach at the hostel believes Budhia is “too young to run even 600 metres, let alone a marathon.” For her, he is no extraordinary child. His weekly schedule includes hockey, discus and football.

Budhia has also been awarded a government scholarship to one of Bhubaneswar’s most prestigious English Medium Schools, DAV Public School, Chandrasekharpur.

A peon’s child destined to caste-bound misery is now mingling and learning among his country’s elite.

On his first day, Budhia addressed the entire school: “I am Budhia Singh. You will all be my friends and in return I will help you learn how to run!”

He recently won the egg and spoon race in his first school sports day.

As per the rules of Government, he will not be allowed to participate in long distance races till the age of 11. In Russia, Korea, China and Japan, they start training athletes at the age of three. As many people say, if you don’t take risks you don’t get results but this is not the case in India; here you have to wait till the age of 11 to show your talent. This is one of the contributing factors for the sorry state of Indian sports.

Budhia Singh, who should have been provided with better training from top coaches of the nation and molded into an international athlete, is now nowhere near competing even at the district level. A boy who was completely different from the crowd has now been forced to become part of that crowd.

Still, it is not all over for Budhia; after all, he is only 10 years old now. He needs our support, he needs better training facilities, his economic condition needs to be improved and above all he should be provided with a coach and mentor like Biranchi Das. It is very important to ask ourselves what steps we have taken to improve the condition of such sports people in our country. Do you really think that just criticizing such Government policies will improve the condition of sports in our country? Well obviously, the answer is no.

We can easily find a number of cricket or football academies in our city but how many athletics academies do we have? Very few. So if India wants to win any Olympic medal in athletics, this is the precise time to prepare our athletes – with better training facilities and world class coaches.