GUWAHATI: When boxer and a hot medal prospect, Lovlina Borgohain, steps into the ring at Tokyo’s Kokugikan Arena, the boxing venue for Olympics 2020, the hopes of a billion Indians will ride on her as a medal will bring them joy and pride.
But for the 2,000-odd dwellers of Baro Mukhia, Lovlina’s village in Assam’s Golaghat district about 320 kms east of Guwahati, a medal at the world’s showpiece sporting event could mean much more than that. It could shake off years of government neglect and bring to the village facilities as basic as a road and water supply.
The village has no concrete road worth the name, it 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 after only 100 metres of the 12-kms stretch was constructed, the government seemed to give up and the broken road remains to this day. 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. From washing, irrigating and drinking, it depends on tubewells and ponds for water. 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 seriouslyill , they have to trave l 45 kms to the district headquarters in Golaghat. But all this could change if Lovlina rewrites the history books. Her co-villagers are aware of the transformation to the village of Hima Das after she scorched the 400 metre track to win a gold at 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. “We hope Lovlina excels at the Olympics. We have waited for long to see some infrastructure development.
“The government will be compelled to develop the village if she wins a medal,” said Hemanta Mahanta. 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.