On February 2, 2006, 13-year-old Vandana Yadav fought three local goons single-handedly in her village, barely three kilometers away from the Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow.
She was stabbed 17 times during her struggle to prevent a sexual assault on her. Yet she later turned up to identify the culprits in the police station. For her bravery, Vandana has been conferred the prestigious Geeta Chopra award.
The award will be given to her by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a ceremony at his residence-cum-office on January 24 and will participate along with 23 other awardees in the Republic Day parade riding caparisoned elephants.
This year's Sanjay Chopra bravery award was conferred on V Teeja Sai and C V S Durga Dondieswar posthumously. Sai and Dondieswar, both expert swimmers, lost their lives while trying to rescue some fellow students who had been sucked away in the gushing waters of river Munneru in Vijaywada district of Andhra Pradesh. Fifteen school children died in the accident on November 26, 2005.
Indian Council for Child Welfare president Gita Siddhartha told media persons on Thursday that 24 children (12 girls and 12 boys) had been selected out of thousands of recommendations.
Rajasthan leads the tally of the award winners with four children getting the coveted recognition while Maharashtra follows with three and Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh getting two each. One awardee each has been chosen from Delhi, Manipur, Punjab and Kerala.
Other awardees include Sushila Gurjar (12), who opposed her parents' decision to marry her off at young age, and Shilpa Janbandhu, who trekked through a dense jungle to attend a 'Salwa Judum' meeting despite naxal warnings.
Unable to withstand pressure from her parents, Sushila ran away from her home and with the help of her uncle wrote letters to Rajasthan Chief Minister and local police chief besides meeting a state minister to prevent the marriage.
Ankita Ashok Bhosale, a six-and-a-half-year-old from Maharashtra, saved a woman who was drowning by pulling her out of the river using a saree. She had jumped into the water to save the girl's elder brother who had accidentally fallen. Her mother and two other women died while making an unsuccessful attempt to save her brother Atish.