Balkar Singh's dream of becoming a boxer of repute is dying a slow death -at just 20 years of age. Thanks to the officer-in-charge for boxing at the Army Sports Institute (ASI) in Pune, Lt Colonel RS Bhoker, the sub-junior champion has endured the humiliation of working as a domestic help at the army officer's residence and is now being asked to leave the city.
"My work largely involved fetching milk and vegetables, dropping the officer's son to school, washing his car, dusting the kids' room and polishing his shoes. And, after that, whatever time I got, I practiced," says Balkar who had won the sub-junior national title in 2004 and followed it up with the School Nationals gold four years later.
At 19, he thought his boxing career could take wings if he joined the Army. He got recruited as a sepoy with the Bengal Engineering Group, Roorkee, in February last year.
His talent was recognised and soon he found himself training at the ASI. But Balkar didn't know that being at the premier sports institute would present him with the option of either facing the humiliation of working as a domestic help or quitting the sport.
Weeks after joining the ASI in August 2009, he won bronze in the All India AK Mishra tournament and Kalinga Cup. But a cut on the face forced him to leave the quarterfinal bout in the National Youth Championship.
His travails started soon after. "Around three months back, Bhoker sir evaluated our performance and told me that I was not fit for boxing. I was told I should report back to my unit. He also gave me the option of staying back in Pune and do domestic work," says Balkar.
"On December 18, I got late by 15 minutes and the house lady scolded me. The same evening, I was told to pack my bags and leave Pune. For the last one week, boxers Naveen and Jitender are doing duty at Bhoker's residence," he says.
"No officer is authorised to keep a sportsperson as domestic help at the ASI," said a boxing coach on condition of anonymity. "Balkar is a good boxer and Bhoker is spoiling his career. We don't know how a non-technical person, who has no idea about boxing, can evaluate a boxer," the coach added.
In June this year, some international boxers had given a signed letter to the then commandant, Colonel Satpal Ahlawat, complaining about Bhoker's "unsporting behavior".
However, Bhoker said, "I have never kept any boxer from ASI as domestic help. I've got Jitender as sahayak (help) but he is from my unit. After my appointment at ASI, results at the centre have improved. And that's why people are jealous; they want to remove me from Pune," he added.
ASI commandant, Colonel RS Bishnoi, could not be contacted.