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India's Special 26: Brave, bold & best

The Rashtriya Bal Puraskar, previously known as the National Bravery Awards, have been revamped to be presented in two categories: Bal Shakti Puraskar to individuals, and Bal Kalyan Puraskar to institutions or individuals working for children

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India's Special 26: Brave, bold & best
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister for Women & Child Development Maneka Gandhi with the recipients of Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar, 2019, on January 24
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The popular National Bravery Awards given away in the Republic Day spirit looked and seemed different this year. First, the awards were rechristened to The Rashtriya Bal Puraskar. Second, the awards were divided into two broad categories - namely Bal Shakti Puraskar for individuals efforts and Bal Kalyan Puraskar to institutions or individuals working for children. Third, for the first time, the online entries were invited for the awards and a good 900 applications were received.

Innovations

Among these, the Union ministry for Women and Child Development selected 26 awardees for Bal Shakti Puraskar, under the innovation, scholastic, sports, arts & culture, social service, and bravery categories respectively. Each of the 24 awards carries a medal, a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, book vouchers worth Rs 10,000, a certificate and a citation.

The National Selection Committee also finalised the names of two individuals and three institutions for Bal Kalyan Puraskar, each of which won a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, a medal, a citation and a certificate to each awardee. The award for institution consists of a prize of Rs 5 lakh each and a medal, a citation and a certificate. The revamped awards, this year, apart from a new name, also has new categories. Awards have been given in the fields of arts, science, innovation, academics, sports, etc., as well as two of them in the field of bravery.

Now that is all the good part. The sad part is that the awards were mired in controversy.

The controversy

If one looks closely at the list of the children winning the National Bravery Awards, this year, (officially renamed the 'Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar) one will see a budding environmentalist, a mountaineer, a chess virtuoso and a figure skating champion, among a galaxy of achievers. What one does not see (and one has been used to seeing for years) is the names of children who fought fire, robbers, or simply dived into deep waters to save others.

There were 21 children, pinning their hopes on being felicitated by the President, the Prime Minister and walking at the Republic Day parade. Most of these hopes remain squashed.

The trouble started when the Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), an NGO that selects children for the awards every year, was questioned on its finances by the Delhi High Court as part of proceedings of a writ petition.

Legal trouble

Soon after, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, the nodal ministry that funds and governs the awards, filed an FIR against the NGO accusing it of embezzlement. "On examination of audited accounts of the ICCW, it has been ascertained that the ICCW has not refunded the unspent balance of Rs 5,44,002 for the year 2015-16 and Rs 83,99,852 and Rs 2,19,70,197 for the years 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively. In view of the findings of the internal inquiry committee and the fact that ICCW has failed to refund the unspent balance available with them and their downstream entities on accounts of grants under the National Creche Scheme, the ministry was forced to file an FIR against the ICCW for embezzlement of funds," the government's complaint read.

ICCW response

The ICCW denied the charges of financial embezzlement and issued a statement that said, it "vehemently denies the false, motivated and mischievous allegations" made in the writ petition.

"The Delhi High Court is presently examining the merits of such allegations and has not reached any final conclusion in this regard. The matter is sub judice," the statement said.

ICCW president Gita Siddhartha said that the body sent the names of the 21 children to the Prime Minister's Office but did not hear back.

"The ICCW has been handling the National Bravery Awards since 1957 and over 900 children have so far been presented with the awards," Siddhartha said.

In response to the heartbreaking eventuality that the selected 21 children will not get any awards, the WCD ministry said that it had written to the NGO to not go ahead with the selection process, and asked it to convey to the award candidates to apply online with the National Children's Awards portal, which launched in August 2018.

"We were shocked to find that the ICCW was running a parallel system of awards, and we had written to them asking them not to give false hopes to these young children. We told ICCW to stop misleading these children. Despite these warnings, there are now 21 children left in the lurch," said WCD Joint Secretary Aastha Khatwani, who is in-charge of the awards.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the 26 children who were awarded the Bal Shakti Puraskar this year. He spent time with them and inquired about their individual achievements He urged the children to remain connected with nature.



(Istock)

Mohammed Suhail Chinya Salimpasha

Born on: Jan 1, 2001

State: Karnataka

Mohammed Suhail Chinya Salimpasha has pioneered a breakthrough technology for diagnosing pre-symptomatic protein energy malnutrition non-invasively by using paper. He says that his aim was to bring down malnutrition among the children among the economically weaker sections around the country.  

Arunima Sen

Born on: Oct 31, 2001

State: Karnataka

Arunima Sen has developed a model for energy efficient skyscraper, bringing about a solution to increase the production of barley. In addition to that, she has designed a device that determines the micronutrient levels in a body using strands of hair.

Aswath Suryanarayanan

Born on: July 18, 2002

State: Tamil Nadu

Aswath Suryanarayanan Sen has several unique research projects to his credit, including a magnetically operated kinetic car named Magokin, as well as a mathematical model for managing debris in space.

Naisargik Lenka

Born on: Jan 27, 2003

State: Odisha

Field: Innovation

Naisargik Lenka has come up with the innovative solution for cleaning contaminated soil and water using an optimised strain named ‘anabaena cylindrica’ in which the contaminations is immobilised in polymer matrix. His aim was to come up with a novel method of treating water from municipal waste. He has also designed a smart toilet model name ‘Swachh APT’.

A U Nachiketh Kumar

Born on: April 1, 2002

State: Karnataka

Field: Innovation

A U Nachiketh Kumar has prepared standard rubber sheet from a fruit named bilimbi (averrhoa bilimbi) as a sustainable and environment friendly substitute for rubber latex created from formic acid by farmers.

Madhav Lavakare

Born on: May 22, 2001

State: Delhi

Field: Innovation

Madhav Lavakare coined an affordable wearable assistive device for the hearing impaired named as “transcribe”. Fashioned like the Google Glass, the device is a smart glass that provides captions live in 132 languages. It also converts speech to text and projects it on a heads-up display. Lavakare says that his aim was to bridge the communication gap between the hearing-impaired and those with hearing ability who do not know the sign language.

Aryamaan Lakhotia

Born on: Nov 16, 2001

State: West Bengal

Field: Social Service

Aryamaan Lakhotia founded the Toy Joy Foundation which works towards bringing joy into the lives of underprivileged children by providing them toys. The organisation is now spread over seven cities, reaching out to more than 10,000 children. He started with the mission of collecting and distributing toys in Kolkata.

Prathyaksha BR

Born: March 18, 2003

State: Karnataka

Field: Social Service

Prathyaksha B R has been spreading awareness about the importance of toilets in a home through theatre and street play. Till date, she has conducted over 119 shows of an one-act play in the remote villages of Karnataka and has inspired many villagers to construct toilets. After winning the award, she donated her earnings and savings to the PM’s Fund.

Eiha Dixit

Born: Sept 29, 2012

State: Uttar Pradesh

Field: Social Service

Eiha Dixit is a young environmentalist who has planted a record 1008 saplings on her last birthday. She promotes plantation on occasions like birthday and weddings to save the world from global warming and pollution.

Ayushman Tripathy

Born: Jan 24, 2001

State: Odisha

Field: Scholastic

Ayushman Tripathy has won numerous accolades for his abilities at the national and international level including International Junior Science Olympiad, 2016 held at Bali, Indonesia. He has also represented India in Global Youth Leaders Conference 2018 in USA.

Megha Bose

Born: July 10, 2001

State: Rajasthan

Field: Scholastic

Megha Bose has numerous feats to her credit in the academics. She was placed in the top 1% in the National Standard Examination in Astronomy, she was selected in the National Informatics Olympiad, and also holds the third rank in the 9th SOF International Mathematics Olympiad. She was awarded with an outstanding performance certificate in the United International English Olympiad and scored 100 per cent score in Australian National Chemistry Quiz.

Nishant Dhankhar

Born: March 8, 2003

State: Delhi

Field: Scholastic

Nishant Dhankhar is a gifted mathematics genius, having won many international and national mathematics competitions. His project a ‘Szemerdi’s theorem’ has been internationally appreciated.

Raam M

Born: April 10, 2006

State: Tamil Nadu

Field: Art & Culture

Raam M is a music maestro who has honed his skills in Carnatic vocal, Mridangam and Western keyboard. He is the youngest Indian to have succeeded with distinction in the eighth grade final examination by Trinity College, London. Till date, he has performed in more than 25 Carnatic music concerts.

Dev Dushyant Kumar Joshi

Born: Nov 28, 2000

State: Gujarat

Field: Art & Culture

Dev Dushyant Kumar Joshi’s acting talent has earned him multiple awards and recognition nationally and internationally. He has been acknowledged for his role of a kid super hero in the TV serial ‘Baal Veer’.

Vinayaka M

Born: Nov 18, 2002

State: Karnataka

Field: Art & Culture

Vinayaka M is a versatile artist and has given several stupendous performances in Hindustani vocal, tabla, harmonium, synthesiser and Western keyboard. His musical talent has been recognised nationally and internationally.

Aryaman Agarwal

Born: Feb 5, 2001

State: West Bengal

Field: Art & Culture

Aryaman Agarwal is a young magician, who presents tricks under conjuring, semi-illusion, stage magic and table magic categories. He has done shows not only for large audience but has also done workshops and demonstrations for underprivileged.

Trutpraj Atul Pandya

Born: Oct 23, 2006

State: Maharashtra

Field: Art & Culture

Truptraj Atul Pandya is a master percussionist acknowledged as the youngest tabla performer by the Guinness Book of World records. He is an established radio and TV artiste, who has given more than 200 live performances.

Shivangi Pathak

Born: July 10, 2001

State: Haryana

Field: Sports

Shivangi Pathak is a mountaineering enthusiast, and is the youngest girl from India to climb Mount Everest from Nepal. She has also conquered Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa as well as Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus. She aims to complete all seven summits.

R Praggnanandhaa

Born: Aug 10, 2005

State: Tamil Nadu

Field: Sports

R Praggnanandhaa is the youngest Grandmaster in Indian chess, and is also the second youngest Grandmaster in World. He is the youngest International Master around the world. His enormous talent and prowess and has made India proud at international stage.

Esow

Born: March 10, 2001

State: Andaman & Nicobar Island

Field: Sports

Esow has won the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championship in Aigle, Switzerland. A resident of Car Nicobar, he has created new meet record in national track cycle championship in 2016.

Priyam Tated

Born: Oct 24, 2003

State: Andhra Pradesh

Field: Sports

Priyam Tated has earned several awards in the field of roller/figure-skating. He has six international, 28 national medals, and has won two gold medals at the recently concluded 56th National Roller Sports Championship 2018, which was his seventh consecutive national meet.

Anish

Born: Sept 26, 2002

State: Haryana

Field: Sports

Anish has won a gold medal in the XXI Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast in 2018. He made a record by winning a silver medal in the senior Commonwealth Shooting Championship 2017.

Angel Vijay Deokule

Born: Aug 5, 2008

State: Maharashtra

Field: Sports

Angel Vijay Deokule is a young player of SQAY martial arts, and has represented India in various international championships. She has also been selected for the upcoming SQAY World Championship in Malaysia  from team India.

Kartik Kumar Goyal and Adrika Goyal

Born: Nov 3, 2004 and 18/07/2008

State: Madhya Pradesh

Field: Bravery (Joint)

Kartik Kumar Goyal, along with Adrika Goyal, showed exemplary courage and humanity during riots, stone-pelting and curfew during Bharat Bandh in Morena, MP, on April 2, 2018. The children provided food, water, medicine and first aid to the passengers travelling in Chhattisgarh Express, which was taken over by rioters.

Nikhil Jituri

Born: Oct 16, 2000

State: Karnataka

Field: Braverya

Nikhil Dayanand Jituri saved the life of a two year old child who accidentally fell in a 150 feet deep open well, which was inundated with water upto 15 feet. He jumped into the well without any hesitation and picked up the baby, who was lying upside down, pumped the water out of baby’s stomach and sent the baby up in a bucket, before coming out himself.

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