Some of the cyclists who are taking part in the championship in Jamshedpur on Monday. (Bhola Prasad)
Jamshedpur, Oct. 15: Fifteen Jharkhand cyclists left for 17th Road National Cycling Championship this evening to represent the state with borrowed or ramshackle cycles and hardly any spares.
What is astounding, however, is that since their last big outing — road nationals in Danapur in April 2011 — to now, 18 months have passed but nothing has changed despite unrelenting media spotlight on the cyclists’ plight.
It is well known that the state locks up its racing cycles and spares — infrastructure purchased for National Games 2011 — in Ranchi. Players have to pay hefty caution money — Rs 10,000 per racing cycle for a fixed tenure of say, a fortnight — to the sports department beforehand.
But it is something that neither they nor the cash-strapped Jharkhand Cycling Association can afford.
So once more, talents are forced to compete risking physical injury. Worse, with grievously injured self-esteem.
Dalip Mahto (27) from Manoharpur, West Singhbhum, leaves his state with the hope that the ragged tyres of his racing cycle would not trip.
Lakhan Hansda (24) of Damodih in East Singhbhum, who had won bronze in the 2011 Games, confesses he had to borrow a racing cycle and his aged vehicle gave up the battle.
“I took the cycle of Seraikela’s Biswajeet Mahto. My own is old, its sprocket is malfunctioning and tyres are in bad shape. I have tinkered with the borrowed cycle a bit and replaced the handle with my own,” said Lakhan, who had sold his ancestral land to buy an imported racing cycle in 2005.
Dalip, who otherwise sells vegetables as his day job, had received a brand new racing cycle from Tata Steel over seven years ago. “Due to wear and tear, its tyres now are so weak that they can skid any moment. I am risking injury,” he said.
Dalip missed last month’s selection trials to attend an all-India camp in Pune as he had no gear.
Jharkhand Cycling Association (JCA) secretary Satbir Singh Sahota told The Telegraph that they knew the state cycling talents were a doomed bunch.
“Our team will be in an embarrassing position before their counterparts from other states. But we sent our squad to the nationals as skipping a big event won’t help. We skipped the track nationals in Patna in April 2011 due to lack of gear,” he added.
He again claimed that the JCA had requested the sports department to release racing cycles and spares but nothing materialised.
“I wrote a letter to the sports department on September 1. But there was no response. Racing cycles and spares can gather rust and dust in Ranchi. But no, they can’t be given to our players to earn glory for the state without caution money,” Sahota rued.
The JCA secretary conceded they got help from Tata Steel Corporate Sustainability Services, which sponsored the outfit’s trip for the four-day national tournament which begins in Muzaffarpur from Wednesday.
Led by Dhanbad’s Anita Kumari, a national champion, the Jharkhand outfit includes Lakhan, Dalip, Ram Kumar Bhatt, Navin Kumar Ram, Santosh Mahto, Ram Singh Hansda, Narinder Hansda, Rajinder Mahto, Rahul Sinha, Gulanhi Banda, Kalpana Kumari, Fulmani Kumari, Pushpa Kumari and Sushila Kumari. Jharkhand will compete in junior and senior categories.
Namai Mahto and Naresh Mahto are accompanying the team as managers.
“I don’t know what I will do in the nationals. One needs proper gear to compete in big events. Sab bhagwan bharose (I’m in god’s hands),” Lakhan told The Telegraph before leaving.
Mortals have raised their hands in surrender. Jharkhand cycling awaits divine intervention.