Budhia Singh, a long distance runner who shot to fame for running 65 kilometres between Puri and Bhubaneshwar in 2006, has not reported to the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) hostel as per protocol on 7 June.
According to The Hindu, Budhia was supposed to report back to his Bhubhaneshwar based training camp where the Odisha government had based him for structured training at the end of the summer vacations. Budhia had also failed to appear for his classes at DAV Public School, Chandrasekharpur, where he is a class IX student.
“We have sent two notices to his address. Besides, four coaches have gone to his home in Saliasahi to find out where he is, but they couldn’t,” said Rupanwita Panda, Budhia’s coach and in-charge of the hostel, to The Hindu on Thursday.
"When he did not meet the date, I wrote a letter to Budhia on 23 June, 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 was sent home for summer vacations on 10 May and was supposed to return to the hostel on 7 June. While the phone of his mother, Sukanti Singh, was switched off, his sister said that Budhia and his mother had gone to their maternal uncle’s house in Nayagarh district and they were likely to return by 28 July according to The Hindu.
"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.
As Budhia did not return to hostel and even remained abscent 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 in the slum. "Our coaches met Budhia's elder sister. She informed that they are out of Bhubaneswar," said Mishra.
A major reason for Budhia's disappearing act could be his frustrations at the training and hostel facilities at SAI. The talented youngster had often complained about his will to leave the hostel as he felt the training methods by the coaches at SAI were counterproductive to his development.
In April this year, he had told The Indian Express that he was desperate to leave the hostel. “All that I am getting to run in the hostel is a measly 1,500 metres. I’m being told to improve my speed by my coach, but I don’t know how far it would help me. I don’t like running sprints, but that’s what I am being asked to,” he had said.
Elaborating further on what kind of training he required, Singh talked specifically about what he believed was best for the furthering of his career as a marathon runner.
“I want specialised coaching for marathon running. I believe that I’m born to run marathons. Even now, I can run for more hours without getting tired. I’m neither getting the required coaching nor the food. I get just about 3 to 4 pieces of chicken, while I was being fed more by Biranchi sir when I was four years old. I feel like I’m in a jail. I want to leave the hostel,” he had then complained according to The Indian Express.
When questioned about the resentment that was constantly brewing in the mind of Budhia and the reason for his disappearance from the hostel, his coach Rupanwita Panda had no comment to make.
Budhia was a discovery of the late Biranchi Das, a judo coach who took responsibility for the young runner until the Odisha government's intervention. The SAI has since then been responsible for the training of Singh and is now faced with a crisis over the missing future Olympic hopeful.
The Child Welfare Committee, Khurda, had also levelled allegations of child exploitation against 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.