‘Forrest Gump’ boy ripped off: mother
December 19, 2007 – 4:54PM
The mother of a child marathon runner dubbed India’s “Forrest Gump” has accused his trainer of stealing more than $1.2 million donated for the slum boy’s future.
The mother of Budhia Singh alleges the coach, Biranchi Das, embezzled over 50 million rupees from the child, who lives in eastern India, from donations and cash prizes, the Press Trust of India reported today.
The child shot to fame after running 65km in seven hours last year at the age of four under a scorching sun and later was banned by worried welfare officials from running marathons.
The mother, Sukanti Singh, filed the accusation at a police station in Bhubaneswar, capital of eastern Orissa state.
“More than 50 million rupees was collected by Das from Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Delhi and Dubai” and not deposited in a bank account set up for the boy, she told reporters.
Budhia hails from a poor family. When his father died when he was two years old, his mother was unable to provide for her four children and sold the boy for 800 rupees to a man to become a servant.
Das, a local judo coach, had said he took over Budhia’s upkeep from the man when he discovered the boy’s astonishing running talent by chance.
“Once, after he had done some mischief, I asked him to keep running till I came back,” said Das.
“When I came back after five hours, I was stunned to find him still running.”
Das got the boy to take part in various distance races across India and he was compared by media here to the fictional book and movie character Forrest Gump who overcomes a disability to “run like the wind blows”.
Budhia has since been placed in a state sports hostel in Bhubaneswar where he goes to school. The state government has assumed responsibility for the boy’s upkeep and he only exercises in the evening.
The coach was arrested earlier this year on charges of “physically torturing” a minor after the boy told a local TV station that: “Sir (Das) has been beating me since a long time and did not feed me properly.”
That case has not come to trial.
Das, who earlier denied the torture allegations, rejected the mother’s embezzlement charges.
“Many people had promised to donate money for Budhia’s welfare but most failed to keep their word,” Das told the Press Trust of India, adding that he spent his own money on the child’s upkeep.