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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 12:43 GMT
Inquiry into marathon boy's coach
By Sandeep Sahu
BBC News, Bhubaneswar

Biranchi Das and Budhia Singh
Supporters of coach Das chanted slogans at the hearing
The coach of India's famous three and a half year old marathon running boy has appeared before child welfare officials accused of exploitation.

Biranchi Das, the coach of Budhia Singh, was answering a summons issued last month in eastern Orissa state.

Mr Das said the Child Welfare Committee had no jurisdiction and accused the state government of trying to separate him from his ward.

Budhia has run distances up to 60km (33 miles) and appeared in TV commercials.

Mr Das appeared at the hearing in the state capital, Bhubaneswar, along with Budhia and a contingent of supporters chanting slogans against the state government.

Denial

Mr Das' lawyer, Sitanshu Mohan Dwivedy, told the BBC his client questioned the authority of the child welfare body to call him to an inquiry.

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

Mr Dwivedy also said there had been no formal complaint to the committee on Budhia's situation and the committee can only hold an inquiry when a complaint has been filed.

He said his client denied all allegations of torture and exploitation levelled against him.

The committee, he said, would give its verdict in the next few days.

Mr Das said he was sure the government could not take any action against him even if the verdict went against him.

However, the state's minister for women and child welfare, Pramila Mullick, told the BBC the committee could remove Budhia from his coach's custody and put him in a suitable place where his physical and mental well-being could be taken care of.

Legal experts say the committee can even take possession of a child from parents if exploitation is proven.

They are less sure, however, if the committee can initiate any action against Budhia's coach.

Mr Das says Ms Mullick is harassing him because he has filed a defamation suit against her for using alleged derogatory remarks against him and his ward in public statements.

Ms Mullick is to appear before a local court on 12 January to give her submissions in the case.

Mr Das says Budhia was sold by his poverty-stricken mother to a man for 800 rupees.

Mr Das summoned the man and paid him his money back.



SEE ALSO:
Fears for Indian 'marathon tot'
09 Nov 05 |  South Asia
India's marathon boy, aged three
13 Sep 05 |  South Asia
India's five-year-old policeman
09 Jun 05 |  South Asia
Runner, 94, finishes capital race
12 Jun 05 |  Scotland


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