Source AP ©

Five-year-old boy from India to walk 500 kilometers

A 5-year-old Indian boy whose long-distance running last year sparked an outcry from rights activists - and prompted a ban on future runs by the child - is planning to walk 500 kilometers (311 miles), his coach said Thursday.

Budhia Singh will begin in Bhubaneswar in the eastern state of Orissa and finish in Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal state, said the coach, Biranchi Das. The walk is to begin June 6 and should take about 10 days, he added

While Das argued that the boy's walk would serve as an inspiration to other young athletes, child advocates decried the news.

"Why do we want to make our children into showpieces?" asked Kiral Modi, who heads Udayan Care, a group that works with poor children in New Delhi, the capital. "What do they want to prove? If the child has athletic ability, it should be nurtured in a proper way."

"I think there are a lot of medical issues this raises besides the emotional and psychological ones," Modi said.

Last year, Singh attempted to run a 70-kilometer (43-mile) marathon, but doctors stopped him after 65 kilometers (40 miles) when he showed signs of extreme exhaustion.

Afterward, doctors found Singh to be undernourished, anemic and under cardiac stress, and the Orissa state government banned him from running until he is older.

Officials offered no immediate comment on the Das' latest plans for Budhia.

But Das insisted he is looking after the best interests of the boy, whose father died when he was seven months old. His mother, unable to support him, was about to sell him to another villager for 800 rupees (US$18; euro15) when the family met Das two years ago.

"I have raised him as my son and I introduced him into running after observing his endurance," Das said, adding that Singh is an inspiration to other children.

"The aim is to make our children and children all over the world to know that if they start now they can qualify for the 2016 Olympics," he said.

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