India's Ng-Dingko Singh celebrates on the podium after winning gold in the bantam weight boxing finals at the 13th Asian Games in Bangkok in December 1998. Singh was declared winner after Timur Tulyakov of Uzbekistan retired at the end of the fourth round. Pic/AFP
He's a national hero, a role model, 1998 Bangkok Asian Games gold medallist and a Padma Shri awardee. But now the nation has forgotten him and left him behind. Manipur's Ng-Dingko Singh's tale is similar to many other sports stars who are forgotten in a world too busy to look back at and look after people who we once hailed as our heroes.
According to a report in Indian Express, Dingko, a former Asian Games gold medallist boxer, has been diagnosed with bile duct cancer. In his battle against liver cancer, the report stated that the 38-year-old boxer underwent a surgery in January that saw 70% of his liver removed.
And with no help from the government, Dingko's wife Babai Ngangom revealed that the father of two had to sell his house in Imphal. "We have already spent Rs 10 lakh so far and are really worried how we will manage the money for treatment. We definitely need help," Dingko's wife was quoted as ssying in the article.
India's Ng-Dingko Singh (R) lands a punch to the head of Timur Tulyakov (L) of Uzbekistan during the bantamweight boxing finals at the 13th Asian Games in Bangkok on December 17, 1998. Singh won the gold when Tulyakov retired after the fourth round. Pic/AFP
The former Navy man who was discharged on Republic Day after the operation that took place at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, is staying at a friend's place in Delhi along with his wife. Dingko's chemotherapy treatment will start soon.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) provided him with Rs 50,000 as advance and he hopes that the rest of his medical expenditure will be reimbursed soon. "Selling the house was the only option. It was a difficult call to make," Dingko was quoted as saying.
A doctor involved in Dingko's treatment has revealed that the cancer was at a very advanced stage, but he believes that the Adiam Games gold medallist, who is the assistant director of Sports Authority of India (SAI) in Imphal, Manipur, will be fit to resume coaching in a few months after completing his chemotherapy cycle.
"He was very fit. He recovered really well. But there are always chances of recurrences, but we can't say anything for certain. His cancer was at a very advance stage and 70 per cent of his liver had to be removed," the newpaper quoted the doctor as saying.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (R) presents the Padma Shree award to the Chief Coach of the Indian Navy boxing team, Ngangom Dingko Singh during the presentation of the 'Padma Awards 2013' at The Presidential Palace in New Delhi on April 5, 2013. Pic/AFP
According to some media reports, Dingko had had to face the ignominy of being denied admission at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in November 2016 because the hospital authority said he didn't have enough money. After repeated requests, one of Singh's admirers, who works in AIIMS, reportedly had finally helped out the former boxer, but he had still been denied a bed.
Well, it's time to stand up and lend a helping hand to one of our national heroes. Is anyone listening?