| Budhia runs from Puri to Bhubaneswar, accompanied by CRPF jawans. Picture by Sanjiv Mukherjee
Puri/Bhubaneswar, May 2: Doctors are unanimous in condemning making a four-year-old run 65 kilometres, but an arm of the government ' the CRPF ' flaunts its association with the event despite the obvious danger to little Budhia Singh’s life.
Budhia performed the extraordinary feat that had to be interrupted before it ran out the full length of 70 km because he was exhausted.
“I could see the tell-tale signs of exhaustion. He was convulsing and was not in a condition to be allowed to run farther,” Dr Jyotsna Nayak, the chief medical officer of the CRPF, said.
The paramilitary force supported the event as part of its effort to promote local talent. The political establishment was an eager accomplice.
At the CRPF stadium in Bhubaneswar, where Budhia was to end his run, Orissa sports minister Debashis Nayak and Archana Nayak, an MP, waited with B.S. Gill, the additional DIG of CRPF, Bhubaneswar, to receive the boy.
As Budhia collapsed, the sports minister, who until recently had opposed the event, disappeared from the spot saying he had an engagement at Cuttack.
The organisers had sought divine endorsement by starting the run from the gates of the Jagannath temple in Puri at 4.07 am.
Lord Jagannath hadn’t opened his gates yet but Sanjeev Panda, the police chief of Puri, had turned up to flag Budhia off. His coach, Biranchi Das, and 50 CRPF jawans accompanied him.
Budhia wore an oversized CRPF white polo shirt and a wan smile ' he had had to wake up at 3.15 and eat a quick breakfast of 75 gm of chhatua, a paste of flour, grams, peanuts and sugar.
Seven hours and two minutes later he could continue no longer ' five km short of the distance set for him and 23 km more than the marathon. The temperature was 36.7 degrees Celsius and humidity 94 per cent.
Dr Arabinda Mohanty, a paediatrician, said: “The people who are making Budhia run are all criminals.” He had tried, in vain, to stop the run.
Dr Apurba Ghosh, the director of the Calcutta-based Institute of Child Health, explained that “running for so long made his heart beat faster as it tried to meet the extra oxygen need. This could have led to heart failure.”
Budhia could have suffered kidney failure, too.
The CRPF gave precedence over medical reasons to philosophy. Gill said: “Life is risk and in risk lies glory.”
It’s not as if CRPF headquarters has a different view. J.K. Sinha, its director-general, said: “As the DG of CRPF, it is my duty to promote excellence in every sport. I see nothing wrong in helping somebody like Budhia.”
When the pilot vehicle carried the boy to the stadium, Buddhia was gasping, unable to ask for water and gesturing with his hands.
His mother Sukanti, who could not feed her son properly a year ago, looked anxious, but said: “He would soon recover. Today he might have got tired due to the heat and the constant jostling.”
Twenty minutes later, the child appeared flashing a victory sign. “I can run as much as you want me to. I want to restore India’s pride.”
Someone would have coached him to say that.