Tribal teen Rajitha from Andhra Pradesh village wins gold at Khelo India

19-year-old Kunja Rajitha, who hails from a non-descript tribal village in Alluri district of the state, recently won gold in the 400-metre sprint event.
Kunja Rajitha
Kunja Rajitha

RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: Surviving is an everyday struggle for the adivasis who migrated from conflict-ridden pockets of Chhattisgarh to Andhra Pradesh. They don’t possess any government-issued identity proofs and are not included in the scheduled tribe category. They are expected to support themselves without any employment opportunities and social security benefits.

Having lived her life among such a group, 19-year-old Kunja Rajitha battled all odds to become a national-level athlete. She refused to limit her potential and commit totally to the mundane routine that others in her village have been following. While pursuing her dream, she continued her education. Rajitha recently bagged gold in 400-metre sprint event at Khelo India Youth Games-2022 held in Haryana. She completed the event in mere 56.07 seconds and brought laurels to Andhra Pradesh. This wasn’t her first win though. She was placed second in a similar event in the 2019 edition of Khelo India that was held in Assam.

Rajitha’s parents had migrated to an inaccessible village in Ramachandrapuram in Pocharam panchayat of Kunavaram block. The hamlet is 130 kms away from Kunavaram and 340 kms away from Paderu, the district headquarters of Alluri district. Kunavaram was part of the erstwhile East Godavari district.
Her parents collect and sell firewood for a living. Rajitha and her three siblings, who helped them collect wood from forests, continued schooling as their parents, Maraiah and Bhadramma, believe in educating their children. The four siblings walked for 10 kms every day to reach Leads School at Katukapalli in Chintur block.

As the school had classes only up to eighth, Rajitha had to move out. She secured admission at a government residential school in Nellore, which proved to be a turning point in her life. Seeing her physical fitness, teachers there motivated her to pursue athletics, resulting in her progressing from a district-level sportsperson to a national-level athlete.

Speaking to TNIE, Rajitha said her goal was to win gold in the Olympics. “No government help came to us. My parents had to migrate from Chhattissgarh a few years ago, and are still struggling to make both ends meet. My village, situated in a remote corner in Kunavaram mandal, has no road access. Without the help of my gurus, I wouldn’t have won these medals. How do you expect a poor tribal girl from a dense forested area to participate at Khelo India if there was no support from my trainers?" she asks.

Mother Bhadramma and brother Jogaiah, in various interviews they gave after Rajitha’s win, said they were anxiously awaiting their daughter’s return.

In 2018, Rajitha joined Tenvic Sports Academy in Nellore. Later, she trained under coach Mike Russell at SAA Centre of Excellence in Guntur even as Gopichand-Mytrah Foundation sponsored her.

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