Brave Hearts – Winners of the National Bravery Awards
Published by Scholastic India Pvt. Ltd.

This book has been aptly named after those Indian children whose acts of courage have helped saved lives. We carried a news item on the brave children who won the National Bravery Awards 2000. Curious to know about what motivates these brave souls? Read this book highlighting the deeds of each of the 14 children who received the National Bravery Awards in 1999.

The Awards are conferred on children below the age of 16 every year by the Indian Council for Child Welfare. The awards are announced on Children’s Day on November 14, but the medals for bravery are presented on the eve of the Republic Day.

Strength from Within
Strength from Within

In 1999, the special Sanjay Chopra Award was conferred posthumously on Rupesh Punjani from Maharashtra for saving his younger sister from robbers. Rupesh was hurt in the attempt but still followed the robbers down the street – they stabbed him to death and fled.

The book is simply written with little to no dramatics added to the actions of the award winners. It brings to life their lives and makes interesting reading. It also tells how these children, some of whom can converse only in their dialects, are at home with each other and others of their age.

The 44-page book also tells how the Bravery Awards began. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, decided that children too should be awarded for their valour when he, himself, was saved by a 14-year-old boy-scout from a burning shamiana (tent in Hindi) in the Ramlila grounds in Delhi in 1957.

Here is an absorbing first-hand account of how Harish Chandra, the first recipient of the award, saved Nehru:

“Nehruji was trapped inside the shamiana. Keeping my cool, I went up to him. Asking him to follow, I steered him through the debris to safety. I was worried the fire might spread… I turned back and climbed up the 14-feet long wooden pole supporting the canopy of fire, took out my dagger and cut the part that was burning. But just then, my hand touched a naked wire and I fell down. I don’t know what happened after that. When I opened my eyes, I was in the hospital,” Harish Chandra was transported to that day in October, 1955.

Other recipients of the awards in 1999 include Rashmi and Harish Shrivastava of Madhya Pradesh, who saved a 10-year-old from a raging bull outside their music school. Plisli Suting of Meghalaya saved his best friend’s life when he was almost electrocuted by a high tension wire, while Jitendra Kumar Sharma saved the wealth of his local temple in Rajasthan though he was badly wounded and had to spend a fortnight in hospital recovering from his wounds.