Anita Kumari and Ram Kumar Bhatt
Enough of cycling around in circles, two of Jharkhand’s pedal medallists have decided, clearly voicing their wish to bring their racing careers back on track by moving outside the state.
Dhanbad’s Anita Kumari (22) and Ram Kumar Bhatt (25) make no bones about wanting to move out, signalling a possible exodus of promising cyclists from Jharkhand which seems to have nothing to offer except the mossy, cracked and a largely off-limits velodrome in Ranchi.
Anita, “seriously considering Punjab”, sought an NOC from Jharkhand Cycling Association. She said she had an “offer” from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, to pursue studies and cycling.
The girl had notched up an individual time trial silver in the national Under-17 road cycling championship held in Chennai in November 2007.
Much disillusionment later, she does not sugar coat her anger. “As a cyclist, I see no future in Jharkhand. Everything stopped after the 34th National Games in February 2011. The plan to set up a cycling academy in Ranchi made no headway,” she said over phone from Dhanbad.
Anita, who has attended national camps and represented Jharkhand in a couple of road racing cycling meets, said she got “very confused to know that the multi-crore velodrome in Ranchi got damaged due to neglect”.
“I don’t think anything will improve in Jharkhand. Perhaps I can redeem my cycling career in Punjab,” she added.
Ram eerily echoes Anita. He is also sure he “will head nowhere if I stay in Jharkhand”.
The youth’s career is illustrious. He bagged individual bronze in 90km road mass start and a third spot in team time trial at last year’s National Games. He also won an individual criterium (race on a closed short distance course with multiple laps) bronze in the senior road cycling meet in Jabalpur, 2007, following it up with a 70 km mass start silver next year in the nationals in Pune. Ram is also a state champion for four years on the trot from 2003.
In a case resembling Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Ram works as a private security guard in Jamadoba to earn a living. His mother has taken over his roadside dhaba. The medal winner takes out precious time for practice early morning on Dhanbad-Bokaro Road.
When asked about what Jharkhand has done for cyclists like him, Ram did not spew venom. “The state government should clarify whether it wants cycling in Jharkhand or not. The government should not put cyclists like us in confusion. It should not keep us in dark,” he said with mild sarcasm.
He added candidly that he was in touch with Maharashtra, Karnataka and Punjab state cycling outfits. “I’m sure I will get an opportunity in any of these three states,” he said.
State cycling association secretary Satbir Singh Sahota said players thought cycling was a “dead sport”. The government should let players use the facilities (velodrome, racing cycles). A cycling academy will help,” he said.