Bhubaneswar : Five-year-old Budhia Singh was about to begin his 500 km walk to Kolkata on this hot Wednesday morning when the Orissa government, represented by a full force of police, child welfare personnel and senior officials, turned up to prevent the 'summer marathon'.
Budhia, who has been in the centre of an escalating controversy over child rights and exploitation, was attempting to walk the 500 km between Bhubaneswar and Kolkata in an incredible 10 days.
This would have entailed at least 50 km of walking a day under a relentless sun in these days of peak summer.
So, on Wednesday when Budhia, adopted by his coach Biranchi Das after paying Rs.800 to his impoverished mother, was about to begin his walk, government forces landed up at the Judo Hall here to stop him from doing so.
The Khordha District Child Welfare Committee, which had formally banned the committee walk last week, had Tuesday night also passed an order specifying that nobody could use or engage Budhia for walking the long distance.
"As per the order, we can't allow any person to take Budhia on his long distance journey to Kolkata," Khordha police chief Amitav Thakur, who had reached the hall at 9 a.m. to stop the march, told IANS.
Thakur was accompanied by Khordha Collector Narayan Chandra Jena – in charge of this state capital which falls in Khordha district – and other police personnel at the Judo Hall.
The boy said his walk was intended to create awareness among the youth about sports. His mother Sukanti Singh and their supporters staged a sit-in outside the hall demanding withdrawal of the ban order.
Child Welfare Committee chief Rabisankar Mishra said he was empowered to protect the interests of children in the state.
Budhia's mentor and coach Biranchi Das, who has been at the receiving end of a lot of flak, Monday announced his resignation as managing trustee of the Budhia Singh Trust, which had been issued the ban and had organised the walk.
Clearly unhappy with the move, Das said Budhia's mother, who lives in a slum, was to "take him on the long walk".
"Some 500 others were to accompany them with medicines and food items. But the government is not cooperating with us. What can we do?" Das said.
Budhia became a celebrity last year after he earned a place in the Limca Book of World Records for his 60 km run between Puri and Bhubaneswar. Budhia runs 45 km twice a week and 20 km on other days.