Bravery feats of children highlight maladies plaguing India

Bravery feats of children highlight maladies plaguing India

Bravery feats of children highlight maladies plaguing India

Hidden behind most of the extraordinary courageous feats of this year's National Bravery Awards are the maladies plaguing the country including the scourge of open defecation, over-the-counter sale of acids, and marriage of underage girls.

While the coveted Bharat Award recipient Reshma Fatma, 16, of Uttar Pradesh survived an acid attack after she refused a marriage proposal, another awardee 13-year-old Aswini Bandu Ughade of Maharashtra's Akola had to fight a leopard to save the life of her sister after the animal attacked her when they went out to answer the nature's call.

"On February 1 last year, I was on my way to a coaching class when my maternal uncle, 22 years older than me, accosted me with a marriage proposal. When I refused, he started pouring acid on my head. Today I wonder what if the acid was not so easily made available to him," Fatma said.

"He poured acid only because I turned down his proposal. Don't women even have the right to refuse today?," she asked in an emotionally-charged voice that drowned the traffic noise from outside the press meet venue.

Ashwini, who had stared down a leopard barely eight months ago, was finding it difficult to adjust to the glare of endless flashbulbs of the posse of camera persons around.

"As usual I had to go out to defecate in the nearby forest accompanying my younger sister when a leopard suddenly attacked my sister. I hit the leopard's head with mangoes and pulled her out of the the animal's jaws following which it fled," Ashwini said in a matter-of-fact tone.

Apart from Ashwini and Reshma, 18 other children from various parts of the country today met the press before their scheduled participation in the Republic Day Parade. Four have been given the award posthumously.

The National Bravery Award Scheme was initiated by the Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW) to give due recognition to the children who distinguish themselves by performing outstanding deeds of bravery and meritorious service.

Since the inception of the scheme in 1957, the ICCW has given the awards, which carries a citation and cash, to 895 children-- 634 boys and 261 girls.