The Telegraph
Wednesday , June 20 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paltry prize for champ

Champion weight-lifter Rakhi Haldar got richer by Rs 6,000 on Tuesday, thanks to a cheque given by the state sports department as it felicitated about 450 sportspersons at Netaji Indoor Stadium. This was the biggest cash prize in the Nadia girl’s career but so costly are modern sports equipment that the amount falls short of the price of a basic requirement for her — a pair of lifter’s shoes.

If Rakhi got crowded out at the event, it was because the felicitation was for podium finishes in the national championships in various fields. This meant Rakhi was treated merely as a silver medalist at the national level, with no incentive on offer for, or even mention of, her international success. The story of the girl, who braved tremendous odds at her village home to win a gold medal a fortnight ago in the 63kg junior category at the Oceania & Commonwealth Senior, Junior and Youth Championships in Samoa was published in Metro on Tuesday.

The fisherman’s daughter had pinned her hopes on Tuesday’s meeting with sports minister Madan Mitra to seek a job. But faced with a flood of people to hand over cheques to, the minister could hardly speak to any awardee individually.

Yet mother Suchitra took the train back home to Habibpur, near Ranaghat, a happy woman. “I felt so proud seeing her on stage. It was worth the pain in my feet.” Mother and daughter had set off from their village at 5.30am but with no cycle van at that hour to ferry them to the station, they had to walk for two hours. The distance from the Esplanade bus stop to Netaji Indoor Stadium only aggravated the pain.

Rakhi is off to the national camp in Bangalore on June 21 to train for the junior Asiad trials. She has offers to represent other regions like Bihar and Pondicherry. “But I will not leave Bengal for cash incentives. I will do what I can from my soil,” she asserts.