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Bravery awards for children presented

By Our Staff Reporter

The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, presenting the Sanjay Chopra National Bravery Award — 2004 to Master Harry Chaudhry at a function in New Delhi on Tuesday. The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, looks on. — Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

NEW DELHI, JAN. 25. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today presented the National Bravery Awards 2004 to 19 children, one of them posthumously, and hoped that their valour and courage will inspire others in working with compassion and honesty that is so essential for making India once again the "Sone ki chidiya'' (golden bird) that it was.

Addressing children in the presence of the Congress president and Indian Council for Child Welfare chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, the Union Human Resource Development Minister, Arjun Singh, and the Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, the Prime Minister said the over 5,000-year-old Indian civilisation has had several brave people whose names find a mention in history books.

Manmohan's gift

Even today, he said, India was in need of such courageous people to take it forward. Noting that in 57 years of Independence, a lot had been done and a lot remained to be done for children, Dr. Singh assured that his Government would increase and strengthen the earlier programmes. "Healthy and educated children will help make a strong and prosperous India,'' he said. He also presented the children with a personal gift along with the medal, certificate and cheque they received as part of the award.

The gathering was informed by the ICCW president, A. Damodaran, that since 1956, 669 children have been conferred with the bravery awards. She said the awards given to the 19 children today were also a tribute to the other brave children, especially those who had saved the lives of others during the tsunami. A third of all the victims were children.

Geeta Chopra Award for Andhra Pradesh girl

The Geeta Chopra Award for the bravest girl was presented to 12-year-old Boya Geethanjali for fighting armed Naxalites at Ananthapuram village in Andhra Pradesh on June 23, 2003 and securing the release of a woman Member of Legislative Assembly they were trying to abduct. As Boya and two women pounced on the seven Naxalites and subsequently the villagers also attacked them, the Naxals were forced to flee.

The other prestigious award, the Sanjay Chopra Award, was presented to 13-year-old Harsh Chaudhry, a resident of West Delhi. Harsh and his 15-year-old sister, Ritika, were going to school on a cyclerickshaw on July 26, 2004 when they were stopped by a youth, Mangal Singh, who then stabbed Ritika repeatedly. Harsh rushed to his sister's rescue and sustained serious stab injuries in his stomach as well.

Undeterred, he continued to resist Mangal Singh. However, Mangal Singh managed to break free and again stabbed Ritika, who later died of her injuries. But by then, Harsh had snatched the key of the culprit's motorcycle, which prevented him from fleeing. Mangal Singh was later arrested.

The posthumous award went to N. Kandha Kumar of Karur district in Tamil Nadu who had saved the lives of two of his schoolmates by pulling them off the school van, which had got stuck on the track at a level-crossing. However, Kandha Kumar was himself killed as a train rammed the van while he was trying to help another student.

A physically challenged boy, Hotilal, also figured in the list of awardees. The 15-year-old had saved the lives of two of a three-member family, which had gone for a bath at Gaughat in Mathura (U.P.) but got swept away and started drowning. Though he saved two of them, his attempts to save the third failed.

The other awardees were Majda, Lalthanzawna, Johncy Samuel, Mahima Tiwari, Khiangdingliana, R.K. Rahul Singh, Priyanka, B. Sai Kushal, Gopal Singh Sondia, Sajan Antony, Shiney T.A., T.P. Krishna Prasad, Vinod R. Jain, and Ramandeep Singh and Pawan Kumar.

Mickey Mouse

The presentation ceremony was livened up by a Mickey Mouse, which had been specially flown in from Disneyland in the United States to dine and party with the children. The "life-size'' Mickey Mouse cheered and greeted the award-winning children and also many more from the municipal schools who had been specially invited for the ceremony. Incidentally, the gathering was also informed that the Union Sports Minister, Sunil Dutt, has declared that all the Bravery Award winning children will henceforth have free access to all Sports Authority of India playing facilities.

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