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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 15:26 GMT
Fears for Indian 'marathon tot'
By Sandeep Sahu
BBC News, Bhubaneswar

Biranchi Das and Budhia Singh
Coach Das has dismissed the fears over Budhia
Officials in India's eastern Orissa state fear a three-year-old who has become famous for running marathon distances is being exploited.

Budhia Singh, who recently ran 60km (33 miles) in six and a half hours, has appeared in a spate of TV commercials.

The state government says it also fears the long distances may be damaging the boy's heart and lungs.

His mentor, Biranchi Das, dismissed the fears, saying Budhia had regular medical check-ups.

Orissa's sports minister, Debashis Nayak, said the government would not be a mute spectator to the exploitation and would intervene, if necessary, to "save his future".

Budhia recently ran non-stop from the holy town of Puri to Bhubaneswar, a distance of 60km (37 miles).

A few days before that, he ran non-stop from Bhubaneswar to Cuttack - 35km.

During a recent visit to Orissa, former top Indian runner, PT Usha, also said running for 50 to 60km so frequently could have disastrous long-term consequences for Budhia's health.

Scolded

But Budhia's mentor, Mr Das, is undeterred by the criticism.

"A team of three doctors conducts regular check-ups on Budhia to find out if anything is wrong with him.

Budhia Singh
Mr Das bought back Budhia after his mother sold him

"I don't know why these people are so concerned."

The state government has announced a monthly stipend of 500 rupees ($12) for Budhia but Mr Das said: "The amount would not be enough to meet the expenses for even two days."

Mr Das, a judo coach, noticed Budhia's talent when scolding him for being a bully.

"Once, after he had done some mischief, I asked him to keep running till I came back," Mr Das said.

"I got busy in some work. When I came back after five hours, I was stunned to find him still running."

Budhia had been sold by his poverty-stricken mother to a man for 800 rupees.

Mr Das summoned the man who had bought Budhia and paid him his money back.

He then started a strict diet and exercise regimen that saw Budhia adding a few kilometres to his running every few days.


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