Two Darjeeling high schools girls, who acted as trafficking decoys leading to busting of a cross-border flesh trade ring and an 8-year-old Arunachal girl, who lost her life while rescuing friends in a river, are among those chosen for the National Bravery Award this year.
For displaying extraordinary valour, Tarh Peeju has been conferred the coveted Bharat Award posthumously while Tejasweeta Pradhan (18) and Shivani Gond (17) from West Bengal have been selected for the prestigious Geeta Chopra Award.
Tejasweeta and Shivani, both volunteers with a rights NGO, first befriended on Facebook a minor girl who had gone missing from Nepal, and who ultimately turned out to be a conduit in the trafficking ring.
“Since class 8 I have been a volunteer of Students Against Trafficking Club (SATC), run under MARG, an NGO which works for curbing trafficking. The NGO received a request to trace the missing girl and they wanted me to be part of a plan to bust the flesh trade racket. I and my parents were hesitant in the beginning, but we both decided to be onboard, as it was for a larger cause,” Tejasweeta told reporters.
Shivani’s brother Vishal Gond, who works for MARG (Mankind in Action for Rural Growth) said, “She agreed to be part of the plan to bust the ring, as worked out by the police and CBI and we (NGO) assisted them.”
“As part of the plan, a fake account was created and we befriended the missing girl, who turned out to be a conduit in the trafficking ring. We then pretended to be Nepalese girls, seeking employment, and we were asked to meet the ring members at a hotel, somewhere on the Indo-Nepal border,” Shivani said.
“Though there were police officials around, disguised in civilian clothes, we both were scared and terribly frightened. We were even shivering, as they took about four hours to arrive. Our back up plan was that if things went wrong, we would just run for our lives. But, we somehow did not lose our strength,” Tejasweeta said.
“The ring was ultimately busted and the mastermind was arrested from Delhi last year. We are proud of the two girls. Society should not look at girls as a burden but as gifts. At least in Darjeeling, daughters are always welcomed on their birth,” Tejasweeta’s mother Kamlesh Rai Pradhan said.
Peeju, who died while rescuing two other children when they were swept away by the current in the Pachin River in Arunachal Pradesh, is among the four awardees to have been conferred the honour posthumously.
The Sanjay Chopra Award has been conferred on 18-year-old Sumit Mamgain of Uttarakhand for displaying outstanding bravery in fighting a leopard to save his cousin’s life.
25 children -- 12 girls and 13 boys—have been selected for the prestigious award, which they will receive from the Prime Minister on January 23 and thereafter participate in the Republic Day parade, officials said.