Ram Kumar Bhatt in Dhanbad on Wednesday. Picture by Gautam Dey
Freedom on wheels is a far cry for this national award-winning cyclist duo.
The 18th National Road Cycling Championship in Kurukshetra from October 24 to 27 2013 has both Navin Kumar Ram and Ram Kumar Bhatt of Dhanbad worried. The national bronze winners don’t know how to take part in the prestigious event hosted by Cycling Federation of India with tattered gear and no velodrome to practise.
Navin and Ram, hailing from needy families, can’t afford Rs 10,000 as security deposit to practise at Sidho Kanhu Velodrome Stadium in Hotwar, Ranchi, forget buying cycles.
Navin, now nearly 20, won a team bronze medal in the 1,500m trial with three others during the 34th National Games held in 2011 in the state. He is now old enough to worry.
The euphoria of his bronze settled to despair for the Khasjharia resident. “The Beach Cruiser racer my father Krishna Ram, a grade IV BCCL employee, bought five years ago for Rs 70,000 is useless due to wear and tear,” said Navin. We are a joint family of 12 persons, but my father is the sole breadwinner. I can’t afford repairs.”
He proudly mentioned theirs “is a family of cyclists”. “My father took part in BCCL sports as a cyclist and won. My brothers Dipak, Dhiraj and Niraj and sister Shobha cycled at the nationals. So did I. But no one got a state job,” said Navin.
On state support for practise so far, he added: “We got a cycle before 34th National Games to practise for 10 days at Khel Gaon. We sought the same facility before other events, including the 17th national road championship in Muzzaffarpur, but didn’t get a nod.”
Ram, 24, has an individual bronze for the track trial 1,500m event in the 34th National Games. The Kapuria youth works as a security guard with a private firm.
“Practising is a luxury. Plus, the wheels of my cycle (Wheeler 7100) are useless. I need Rs 70,000 for replacement, which is more than what I earn in a year,” he laughed without mirth. “I get Rs 4,500 a month. Don’t ask how I managed to invest Rs 3,000 on tyres last month.”
He added he practised on Hirak Road before but it was too risky. “We can’t enter the state velodrome for free, there are no camps before a major event,” he rued.
Ram’s mother Anjali Bhatt, a widow, ran a roadside eatery till last year. “Now, my salary is the main source of income ,” he said.
President of Jharkhand Cycling Association Satbir Singh Sahota said most players were poor. “Officials say cyclists can practise at the Hotwar velodrome against security money. Where will they get it?” he asked.
All eyes once more on chief minister Hemant Soren and sports minister Geetashree Oraon.