The Odisha government on Friday said child marathon runner Budhia Singh was not missing and he was likely to return to the sports hostel at Bhubaneswar in the next four days.
"Budhia Singh's mother had yesterday told a local news channel that they are in Nayagarh. We are expecting him to return to sports hostel in two to four days," Sports and Youth Affairs Secretary Saswat Mishra told reporters following local media report that the boy was missing.
Mishra said Budhia did not return to the sports hostel after summer vacation last month. Besides Budhia, eight sportspersons had not returned to the hostel. They used to return to the hostel within a fortnight of reopening of the SAI hostel here at Kalinga Stadium.
As Budhia did not return to hostel and even remained absent in school, the hostel authorities had sent letters to his house in Salia Sahi slum. Four coaches of the sports hostel also visited Budhia's mother's home at the slum. "Our coaches met Budhia's elder sister. She informed that they are out of Bhubaneswar," said Mishra.
Rupanwita Panda, sports hostel in-charge and Budhia's coach, said the runner, who had left the hostel during summer vacation in May, had been asked to join the coaching camp on June 4.
"When he did not meet the date, I wrote a letter to Budhia on June 23 asking him to return to the sports hostel within a week. As I did not get a reply of my letter which I had sent through post, I wrote another letter and sent four coaches of the Sports Hostel to hand over the letter to Budhia at Salia Sahi. But the coaches did not find Budhia in his house, while his sister informed the coaches that Budhia has gone to the village and will return within four days. But till date, he has not reported to me," she said.
Budhia Singh's neighbours said the boy and his mother were not seen in the slum for the last one month.
Budhia came in to the limelight after he set a new Limca record by successfully running a marathon of 65 km from Puri to Bhubaneswar in seven hours in May, 2006 at the tender age of four. The state government had given shelter to Budhia Singh in the sports hostel after several child rights activists alleged exploitation of the boy.
The Child Welfare Committee, Khurda, had also levelled allegations of child exploitation against Budhia's mentor and coach Biranchi Das. The police later conducted a health check-up of Budhia based on the CWC's allegation. The report was placed before the Orissa High Court. The court had then observed that considering his age and health, Budhia should not be allowed to participate in marathon.