For India's Asian Games gold-winning boxer Amit Panghal, the lockdown hasn't been about just staying fit and enjoying time with family, it has also opened his eyes to the plight of "distraught" farmers in his village and he is appealing for government help. The 24-year-old, who hails from Mayna village which is situated 5km from Rohtak, is "for the first time in many years" spending the summer at home due to the lockdown which has brought all training camps to a halt.
The Armyman helped his father, Vijender Singh Panghal, with the harvesting of wheat and in the process witnessed the "misery of farmers" shattered by unseasonal rains and the lockdown to contain the deadly pandemic. "My village and 13 nearby villages have been affected by hailstorm and unseasonal rains that have destroyed crops," India's first silver-medallist at the world championships told PTI in an interaction.
"I have never seen misery like this. Some farmers have not even got enough yield to sustain themselves, forget about harvest for sale," he said. Panghal had donated Rs 1.11 lakh to the Prime Minister's fund to fight the COVID-19 pandemic last month. "I appeal to the Haryana government, please help these people. They are desperate," said the flyweight 52kg boxer, who is also a Commonwealth Games silver-medallist. Farmers in Rohtak have been demanding compensation for weather-caused crop damage and according to reports, a survey has been conducted to assess the cost by the state government. However, no payments have yet been made according to media reports quoting local officials.
Panghal had posted his appeal on Twitter as well, tagging the official handle of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's office. "There has been no response so far but I am hopeful of help. The hailstorm in March has destroyed the farmers this side. They don't have anything to fall back on. They won't be left with any food also if help doesn't come soon," he said with concern.
"Our family's crops were also affected but we are fine. We use our harvest for our own consumption only. But the people I am talking about are in dire straits. They need help," he added. "Being a farmer's son, it is my responsibility to raise my voice for them." Speaking about his time in the lockdown, Panghal said it hasn't been particularly difficult as he has got everything he needs to stay fit and the added incentive of mom-cooked meals.
"We have been provided daily schedules to follow by the coaches, I stick to that. I train at a senior's house nearby as he has all the equipment. Focus is to stay fit and increase strength," said the boxer, who has often stressed on the need to make his punches more powerful. "Plus, I have managed to spend some quality time with my family which was not happening earlier. This is the first time I have been at home for so long. Aaj kal chulhe ki rotiyan kha raha hun," he added with a laughter.
"Mom-cooked meals used to be once in a while, getting them regularly is one positive I can count about being in lockdown." Asked what he saw as the future of a contact sport like boxing in a post COVID-19 world, Panghal said he is hopeful of things getting back to normal at some point. "I don't think there will be or there should be any sparring. Social distancing is important. Training can resume without us having to do sparring because there is no competition lined up right now. For the time being, that is enough," he said.