India salutes 21 children for exemplary courage

January 18th, 2010 - 6:44 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) They have hardly reached their teens, but then what has age to do with courage? From saving lives in landslides and averting major disasters due to terrorist strikes to even giving up their lives to save somebody else’s — 21 children have been selected for the national bravery awards this year for their heroic deeds.
The awardees were introduced to the media at the Indian Council for Child Welfare in the capital Monday. Of the 21 kids, eight are girls.

Thirteen-year-old Gaurav Singh Saini of Haryana has been given the Bharat award for saving more than 60 lives in a stampede at the Naina Devi temple.

Recounting his memories of that fateful day in 2008, Saini said that he had gone to the temple with his parents when they suddenly heard that there was a landslide. Panic stricken people started running helter skelter, thus causing a stampede.

“My first reaction then was not to run but help those who were stuck in the stampede. There were people all around, falling on top of each other and feeling claustrophobic. I looked around and saw a wire so I jumped onto it. Seeing me, people held out their hands and I pulled them up and made them hold on to the wire,” Saini said.

“Soon I had gathered about 60 people on the wire and slowly we pulled ourselves to a tin roof and slid down to safety,” he said.

In all the chaos, the teenager lost his sister and a cousin.

“I am proud that I could save so many lives. My teacher used to always say - the test of a person’s character is the way he reacts in the face of adversity. Someday I would want to join the Indian army and save more lives,” Saini told IANS confidently.

Saini was not the only brave kid to have expressed his desire to join the defence forces. So did 10-year-old Maibam Prity Devi, who was awarded the Geeta Chopra award for her bravery.

Devi, who hails from Manipur, saved the lives of hundreds when miscreants hurled a grenade in their grocery shop in the village.

“I was with my mother in the grocery shop when a grenade was hurled at our shop. It landed near the gas cylinder… I was shocked but immediately raised an alarm that it was a bomb. Not waiting for any reaction, I picked it up and threw it some distance away,” the gritty girl said.

The grenade exploded, injuring a few people, including Devi, but she was glad that she could save the lives of the people.

“I had splinters in both my knees,” she said pointing at her legs. “I hope I can become a police officer some day.”

Devi’s father who accompanied her at the event here, however, said: “I only wish that the government had taken care of Devi’s treatment. Nonetheless I am very happy that my daughter has been selected for the award. I am proud of her.”

Two of the 21 awards will be given posthumously. Both the children, Ranu Mishra, 10, and Deepak Kumar Kori, 12, drowned while trying to save the lives of others.

The children will be given their awards by the prime minister prior to the Republic Day, after which they will participate in the parade. The president will also host a reception in their honour.

They will also receive a certificate, a medal and cash prize.

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