Guwahati: Boxer Lovlina Borgohain has assured India of its second medal at Tokyo Olympics after winning the second round against Taiwan's Nien-Chin Chen.
But for the 2,000-odd dwellers of Baro Mukhia, Lovlina’s village in Assam’s Golaghat district about 320 kms east of Guwahati, her winning a medal could shake off years of government neglect and bring to the village facilities as basic as a road and water supply.
As per a report in The New Indian Express, the village is connected with the rest of the world by a mud and stone track. The last time an effort was made to build a road was in 2016, when the then chief minister Sarabanda Sonowal promised to connect Baro Mukhia with Kargil war martyr Padum Bahadur Shrestha’s village in Hatighuli.
But the government seemingly gave up after constructing only 100 metres of the 12-kms stretch. Villagers claimed seriously ill patients have died because they could not reach the hospital quickly enough. The champion pugilist’s village also has no piped water supply and depends on tubewells and ponds for water for washing, irrigating and drinking.
Healthcare facilities at Baro Mukhia are also non-existent. The nearest primary health centre is 3 kms away at Barpathar, but it has no bed and doctors seldom turn up. If anyone at the village falls seriously ill, they have to travel 45 kms to the district headquarters in Golaghat.
But the villagers are now hoping for the same miracle that happened to HIma Das' village after she won gold at 400 metre track in the World under-20 Championship in Tampere, Finland, in 2018.
The Assam government built a 1.5 km road, a village gate, a namghar (a Vaishnavite prayer centre), a youth club and a mini stadium in Kandhulimari, Hima’s village. “We pray that Lovlina wins a gold medal at the Olympics as her success could change the fate of our village. It has happened with Mary Kom’s village in Manipur. Her village has developed on all fronts after she shot into the limelight,” said Horen Gogoi, a family friend of Lovlina.
Hemanta Mahanta, another villager, agreed. “The government will be compelled to develop the village if she wins a medal,” he said. He was confident that Lovlina will not disappoint. “She will win a medal and become famous. Then a lot of people from various parts of the country will visit our village. When they will travel on a road that is full of potholes and kuccha, the government will be ashamed and do its bit,” Mahanta added.
Gogoi claimed he and some others had raised the issues with chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma recently. “The CM asked sports minister Bimal Borah to visit our village but the minister’s visit has been delayed due to the pandemic,” he said. “There is no dearth of talent at Baro Mukhia and its surrounding villages. We want more Lovlinas to emerge. To help train budding talents, we need boxing rings and gyms. Sadly, there is none in the constituency,” he lamented.
Lovlina’s father, Tiken Borgohain, a small-time businessman, said the entire region has remained neglected for years. “Until two months ago, nobody was interested in the development of Baro Mukhia and its adjoining villages. The new MLA has started giving some attention,” Borgohain said.
“There is also no environment for games and sports here. We are not bothered if Lovlina wins a medal or not. For us, it is a great thing that she has emerged on the world stage from such a backward place,” he added.
Growing up in a non-descript village and pursuing studies at a nearby school, the lanky Lovlina as well as her twin sisters, Licha and Lima, were initiated into sport through ‘muay thai,’ a form of kickboxing. The two elder siblings competed at the national level but did not pursue it beyond that.
Lovlina’s talent was spotted by Padum Boro, a Sports Authority of India coach, when he visited the village in 2012 in search of young talent. Following trials in Guwahati, she was selected as a trainee. The biggest break came when she was selected for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She has not looked back since.
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