May 9, 2006

Race over for India’s “marathon boy,” say officials

BHUBANESWAR, India (Reuters) - A four-year-old from the
slums of eastern India dubbed "marathon boy" after he ran for
seven hours in sapping summer heat may be forced to hang up his
training shoes by officials worried his health is at risk.

"We are exploring possibilities to refrain (the boy) from
long-distance running," Pramila Mallick, minister for women and
child welfare the state of Orissa, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Last week Budhia Singh entered into the Limca Book of
Records, a local version of the Guinness publication, after
running 40 miles uninterrupted in seven hours and two minutes.

Officials poured praise on the boy and promoted him as a
local celebrity as newspapers and television stations raced to
cover his every step.

But leading human rights organizations harshly criticized
both the local government and Budhia's coach for endangering
the boy's health for personal reward.

"It is an act done so rashly or negligently to endanger
human life or the personal safety of others as defined under
section 336 of the Indian Penal Code," Suhas Chakma, the
director of the Asian Center for Human Rights, said in a

After the case was reported to the National Human Rights
Commission, the Orissa state government appointed a team of
doctors to conduct medical tests on Budhia.

They reported that his cardiological system was under
stress, that he was undernourished and suffering from anemia.
The doctors said if Budhia continued to run long distances he
could suffer kidney failure.

Born in a slum in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa,
Budhia was sold by his mother for just 800 rupees ($19) after
his father died. Biranchi Das, a local judo teacher, adopted
Budhia and later discovered his unusual stamina.

"I am not convinced with the medical report. Budhia should
be examined by independent agency," Das said.