Marathon boy’s coach charged with torture

THE coach of a six-year-old Indian boy, who ran a marathon last year in an attempt to set a world record, was arrested yesterday and charged with torturing the boy, police said.

Biranchi Das was arrested after the boy’s mother said she discovered scars on the body of her son, Budhia Singh, according to police official Sarat Chandra Sahu in Bhubaneshwar, the capital of the eastern state of Orissa.

Singh became an instant celebrity in record-crazy India when he ran 40 miles at the age of four — a feat that also drew immediate, widespread condemnation from medical officials and child rights activists.

The boy’s mother, Sukanti Singh, had supported Das’s efforts to train her son, but yesterday she alleged the man was mistreating the boy.

“Biranchi was beating him up regularly,” she said.

“He even once tied Budhia up from a ceiling fan and threw hot water on his body.”

Budhia Singh had been living with the coach.

The boy was taken to a hospital for examinations, and was assigned security guards after his mother claimed Das has threatened their lives.

Das denied the allegations, calling the charges “a conspiracy against me hatched by the state government’s child welfare department”.

The department had condemned the boy’s participation in marathons as “torture” in May, a month before police stopped him making a 60-mile walk in scorching heat in east India.

In 2006, Singh attempted to run 43 miles, sparking protests from child rights activists.

Doctors stopped him after 40 miles, when he showed signs of extreme exhaustion.

They found him to be undernourished, anaemic and under cardiac stress.

His mother, who was once allegedly close to selling her son to another villager for 800 rupees, also complained that Das was not fairly sharing the money he had earned from the boy’s long-distance exploits.

“He has given me very little, but he was earning a lot of money from my son’s hard work,” she said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

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