Makhan Singh was an Indian athlete during the 1960s. He won his first medal in the National Games in Cuttack in 1959. He continued his success in the ensuing years, winning a silver and gold in Madras in 1960 and a silver at Trivandrum in 1963. However his biggest triumph was his victory over Milkha Singh in a 400m race in the 1962 National Games in Kolkata, just two years after Milkha Singh’s stupendous feat in the 400m race at the Rome Olympics.

When asked about his training partner and competitor, Milkha Singh commented:

“If there is someone I feared on the track, it was Makhan. He was a superb athlete, who brought the best in me”.

In 1964, he was conferred the Arjuna Award, the country’s highest award for sporting excellence, for his achievements.

It was here that destiny took a bad turn in the life of Makhan Singh. Needing financial support for his family, Makhan Singh started driving a truck in Nagpur. Unfortunately, he met with an accident and lost a leg there, which ended his athletics career.

To beat poverty, in 1995 Makhan Singh even opened a stationery shop in Chabewal, 3 kilometres away from his village, but could not sustain it as cycling on one leg, which he did for four years, proved too taxing in the end. To help Makhan get over the financial and emotional crisis, Milkha supported him in getting a kerosene oil depot. But he couldn’t earn enough to lead a respectable life and died in 2002 of a cardiac arrest at Chabbewal.

His family lived in poverty even after his death, and received no financial support from government officials.

It was a year ago after Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha demanded that the Sports Ministry provide for his widow and family so that they could lead a respectable life, that they were provided financial support by the Ministry.

The morals from this story should ring loud and clear in the ears of our government and sports ministry.

It is time that sportsmen in all fields are ensured financial help and care by our government bodies, so that they can lead a life of honour and dignity even after retirement.