On track: Lakhan Hansda
The year-end brings the year’s first good news for the state’s most successful male cyclist and sole international Lakhan Hansda.
The 24-year-old tribal youth has received help from unexpected quarters — the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Jharkhand. The CII has decided to give Lakhan a sponsorship of Rs 50,000 — half for his cycle’s repair and half for its maintenance — and will chip in with funds as long as he competes in state and national level meets.
This unexpected pre-Christmas Santa comes in handy especially now when Lakhan’s career had reached a nadir through no fault of his.
On December 4, when Lakhan met with an accident while practising for the National Track Cycling Championship — to be held later this month — on an open road near his village Damodih, he received minor injuries but his racing cycle was rendered completely out of action with a crumpled rear wheel.
With no financial hope from the state, the crushed rear wheel of his imported cycle had signalled an alarming brake to his career, which The Telegraph reported on December 10 (Cycle in coma, career in question for pedal star).
“We were very pained by the report. We discussed the matter thoroughly between ourselves and decided to help him (Lakhan) out,” a senior CII functionary said, requesting not to be quoted.
Officials met Lakhan and Jharkhand Cycling Association (JCA) secretary Satbir Singh Sahota and asked the latter to submit a proposal.
Then, the CII thought of something long-term.
“We understand that he is the best cyclist in the state. Besides the repair and maintenance of his cycle, we will take care of his expenses during state and national championships,” the functionary of this industry outfit added.
The CII will formally hand over the cheque by December-end to Lakhan once he comes back from the New Delhi meet between December 24 and 28. “We hope to complete formalities after he returns at the end of this month,” he said.
This CII initiative has worked as a tonic for both Lakhan and JCA secretary Sahota.
“Mera to bhagya hi khul gaya. Bahut khush hoon ki meri cycle ab phir se daudegi (Luck has smiled on me. Very happy that my cycle will run again),” Lakhan told The Telegraph as he thanked the CII.
“CII had asked me to bring along Lakhan to their office. They heard the whole story from Lakhan and understood from him the kind of help he needs. I told them about the apathy meted out by the state sports department to the cyclists,” the JCA secretary said, thanking the CII and hoping for similar corporate goodwill.
On donning state colours yet racing on a borrowed cycle at the New Delhi national meet, Lakhan only said: “I’ll do my best.”
His back still hurts, his telltale wince says. But he is determined to compete. “Don’t forget, Lakhan is the cyclist who bagged the 1500m team time trial bronze at 34th National Games last year,” Sahota said.
On the state sports department, the JCA secretary said nothing had changed. “We are going for the track nationals without any professional practice. Our cyclists slog on their own on metal and kutcha roads as they can’t use Ranchi’s Sidho Kanhu velodrome,” he said.
Does corporate or NGO adoption of a sportsperson absolve the state of all its responsibilities?