The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cops stop walk to fame-II

Bhubaneswar, June 6: Budhia Singh’s walk to fame received a jolt this morning amid mass hysteria and war of words.

The child wonder’s much-publicised 500km walkathon from Bhubaneswar to Calcutta was stopped when the police intervened following a comprehensive order from Khurda Child Welfare Committee (CWC) to “not engage or use the child in the long-distance walkathon”.

Amid all the arguments, the child sat silently on his mother’s lap, who was still protesting the “high-handedness” of the police and the CWC.

From the beginning of the show, the police had their work cut out for them. Organisers — members and supporters of Budhia Singh Trust — tried to push through the Police Lines and start their second journey to fame.

Khurda collector N.C. Jena and superintendent of police (SP) Amitabh Thakur were shoved by 100-odd supporters, who raised slogans like “Budhia Singh zindabad” and “CWC hai hai”.

Soon, a war of words broke out between Budhia’s mother Sukanti Singh and the SP. “I want to take my son for a walk. Who are you to stop me'” screamed a hysteric Sukanti pushing through the resisting policemen.

Though the SP tried his best to reason out with the fuming mother, it took women in uniform to quell her anger.

In the meantime Budhia’s coach Biranchi Singh and some self-proclaimed well-wishers from the Budhia Singh Trust pleaded with the SP. But the collector said: “We have the absolute order of the CWC, which clearly states that the child cannot participate in the walkathon.”

After more than half-an-hour of fruitless arguments with the police, the organisers finally sat on a dharna under the shade of a Banyan tree to protest against the injustice. “I won’t budge from here until we are allowed to start the walkathon along with Budhia,” said the boy’s mother.

CWC chairman R.S. Mishra clarified yesterday that the committee had passed a comprehensive order, which clearly states, “the child named Budhia Singh shall not be subjected to walking by anyone in any manner in the scheduled long-distance walk from Bhubaneswar to Calcutta”.

“This order is within the power of the committee to stop the walk and we have done that because otherwise it would amount to cruelty towards the child,” he said.

After matters cooled down, only a lorry, loaded with essential items like rice, dal, salt, a gas stove and cylinders, stood adjacent to a luxury bus that was to accompany the child in the walkathon. Unlike last time, at least two jeeps carrying billboards of the sponsors — a steel maker and a child growth tonic — could be spotted.

“Nearly Rs 12 lakh was spent for the arrangements was wasted,” rued Biranchi.

Smarak Mishra, a lawyer for the trust, said he would file a petition with the Bhubaneswar district judge and lodge a complaint against the arbitrary manner in which the CWC has passed the order.

“We have asked the CWC for a copy of the order and after we receive it, we will move the court,” he said.

The stand-off disappointed several Budhia fans who had come from outside the state to witness the event.

“This is clearly a human rights violation. We mustn’t stop a child, who has so much talent,” said Praveen Patel, director of Tribal Welfare Society, an NGO, which had feted the boy in Chhattisgarh.

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