India marvels over 'marathon boy'

The coach of a four-year-old Indian boy who ran a remarkable 65km has denied abuse allegations as human rights groups called for action against officials they say endangered his life.

    Budhia(C) ran 65km in seven hours on Tuesday

    The image of Budhia Singh was to be seen all over newspapers and television sets after he completed his mammoth run from Puri to Bhubaneswar in the eastern state of Orissa, in seven hours becoming the youngest Indian ever to cover such a distance.

    His coach, Biranchi Das, said he was more worried about the health of his  pupil than seeking personal gain from his exploits.

    He said he was getting medical advice to study the phenomenonal  achievements of Budhia.

    However the Asian Centre for Human Rights said that the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) should press for disciplinary measures against senior state government officials who took part in the attempt.

    Orissa's sports minister was at hand as a totally exhausted Budhia completed his run, while dozens of police officers ran alongside the boy.

    Abuse fears

    "It is an act done so rashly or negligently to endanger human life or the personal safety of others as defined under section 336 of the Indian Penal Code," Suhas Chakma, the centre's director said in a statement.

    Many considered whether the treatment of Budhia constituted child abuse.

    "If Budhia does not run, he won't know what to do"

    Biranchi Das,
    Budhia's coach

    "This is pushing the physiological limits," said paediatrician Anupam Sibal. "A growing body is not meant for so much wear and  tear."

    Others said strenous running at such a young age could damage  bones permanently, causing stunting and even deformity.

    Das said he could not understand what the fuss was all about.

    Chance discovery

    "If Budhia does not run, he won't know what to do," he said.

    "All he does is eat, run and sleep. Budhia is edgy if he does  not run long distance every day. I make him do it in two sessions,  half in the morning and the rest in the evening."

    Das said he discovered Budhia's amazing talent by chance while  conducting a judo class in Bhubaneswar, the state capital of Orissa,  two years ago.

    "Once, after he had done some mischief, I asked him to keep  running till I came back. When I came back after five  hours, I was stunned to find him still running."

    Budhia has already taken part in the Delhi half-marathon and  other distance races across India but Tuesday's outing was much  longer than the official marathon distance of 42km(26  miles).

    Das wants to make Budhia an Olympic star - 20 years down the  line.

    Abnormal childhood

    "He will be at his best at 25 and that is a long way off. First  he needs to grow up like a normal child."

    "This is pushing the physiological limits. A growing body is not meant for so much wear and  tear"

    Anupam Sibal,
    Paediatrician

    There has been nothing ordinary about Budhia's life so far.

    When his father died two years ago, his mother, a dish washer in  Bhubaneswar, was unable to provide for her four children and sold Budhia to a man for 800 rupees ($20).

    His new father enrolled him in a judo class run by Das.

    The Orissa state government says it is keeping a close watch on  Budhia and his coach and will step in if anyone misuses the boy.

    Debasis Nayak, the sports minister, has already ruled  that Budhia cannot take part in long distance races without  clearance from a team of doctors.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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