Tribal woman in Odisha opts for drudgery under MGNREGS for revival of her husband’s sporting career


Husband wins gold medal in veteran event by funding his travel to New Delhi through mortgaging of land

Husband wins gold medal in veteran event by funding his travel to New Delhi through mortgaging of land

A tribal woman in Odisha’s Sundargarh district opted to toil hard under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) so that her husband could realize the goal in his kickboxing career.

Thirty-year-old Budhini Barla of Kukuda village took the bold decision after her 41-year-old husband Billu Tirkey, a teacher in government primary school, won gold medal in veteran category in the second edition of WAKO Indian OPEN International Kickboxing Tournament 2022 held at New Delhi in the first week of November.

Kickboxers from Jordan, Uzbekistan, South Korea and India had participated in the event where Mr. Tirkey shone on strength of his steely determination.

Mr. Tirkey has been working as a teacher under multi lingual education programme at Government Primary School, Barakani in Bisra block of Sundargarh district. From his youth days, he was training under Sundargarh District Kick Boxing Association. He had gone on to win East Zone Championship held in Kolkata in 2008.

For a poor tribal family, pursuing career in sports is nothing short of a challenge. Mr. Tirkey gets a monthly honorarium of ₹3,200 for imparting education in Kudhuk language. The meager amount was not enough to fund their monthly expenditure. He had no option, but to stop dreaming a career in the kickboxing.

“It was not that I left the career without giving a fight. Early in the morning, I along with my wife used to dig pit under MGNREGS so that extra money could be earned. A person can earn ₹213 by digging a pit in a day. After morning hour, I go to school as per duty,” he narrated.

Revival in sporting career

Mr. Tirkey saw a possibility of revival in his career when he won a silver medal in veteran category of a kickboxing championship held in Chennai in August 2022. Based on his performance, he was selected for the international event at New Delhi.

“I had flatly refused to participate in New Delhi event since it involved an expenditure of close to ₹40,000. It was beyond my capacity.  When my trainers insisted that I should take part in the event that could help me in finding better job, I relented. For this, I had to mortgage an acre of land for a loan of ₹20,000. Besides, I took hand loan of ₹5,000 each from three persons,” said the tribal teacher.

Ms Barla was so impressed by her husband’s performance in the New Delhi event that she did not want him to spoil valuable time during morning hour by working in MGNREGS programme.

“I decided to do drudgery under MGNREGS so that my husband could get time for practice during morning hours,” she said. The woman gets up at 3 am in the morning and quickly completes household chores including preparation food. By 5.30 am, she reaches nearby forested area where MGNREGS work is taken up. It takes two to three hours depending on hardness of soil to complete a day’s work. During daytime, the woman returns to agriculture field for harvest of paddy.  

At the age of 41, though the Odisha primary teacher has little expectations that his career graph will climb sharply, his wife is hell-bent that he should pursue career in kickboxing. Couple’s inspirational struggle was a topic of discussion at Padha Ghar – a weekly meeting of Oraon Tribe in Sundargarh district on Thursday.


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