Assams Pinky Karmakar, who now works as a daily wage labourer at a tea garden in Dibrugarh district to manage two square meals for his poverty-stricken five-member family, had represented India as the torch-bearer at the 2012 London Olympics.
After the hue and cry from various quarters during the recent Tokyo Olympics, the Assam government last week offered a temporary job to Pinky as ‘Contingency Menial’ at the Assam Tea Employees Provident Fund Organisation in the Dibrugarh zonal office with a consolidated pay of Rs 9,000 per month for a period of three months.
The 27-year-old, who had aspired to be an archer of international repute, is yet to decide on the job offer as it is temporary in nature and the salary is also very poor.
The then 17-year-old Pinky was given an impressive reception in Assam when she returned home from the London Olympics.
Former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is now a Central minister, and many other ministers and politicians had greeted Pinky when they received her at the Guwahati airport upon her return.
But in the past 12 years, everyone has forgotten her, as Pinky’s struggle against acute poverty continues.
“In 2014, my mother died due to illness, while my father Rajen Karmakar (now 78) had to quit tea garden work in 2015 due to old age. My mother was also a daily wage labourer.
“I have two sisters and a brother. With no other alternative, I started work as a labourer in the Borborooah tea garden (in Dibrugarh district). Now I am getting Rs 205 per day,” Pinky told IANS over phone.
In 2010, when she was studying in Class 10, the UNICEF, after recognising her talent in various streams and her sincerity towards societal work, had engaged her in the “Sports for Development (S4D) programme” at her school to teach girls and to take forward the adult literacy campaign, health hygiene and physical exercise in her tea garden locality.
“I had a dream to do something big when the opportunity came to me as India’s torch-bearer at the London Olympics. I had performed my responsibility with all sincerity and everyone praised me during and after the London Olympics.
“But my life got shattered in the fight against poverty and to protect my poor family,” Pinky said.
She is deeply upset for not getting any support from the government or any other organisation, including the UNICEF or the Olympic committee.
“I am extremely dejected as everybody overlooked me,” Pinky said in Assamese.
All Assam Tea Tribe Student Association leader Jun Karmakar said that it was a proud moment for their tea community when Pinky represented India in the torch relay in London.
“But soon after the London Olympics, everyone forgot about her. She didn’t get any support from the government or any other private organisation,” Karmakar told IANS over phone.
He said that despite deprivation from all quarters, Pinky during the Covid-19 pandemic very actively campaigned about Covid appropriate behaviour, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and to familiarise the tea garden workers about the utility of the Covid vaccine.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)