The national awards for bravery was started in 1957 by the Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW) to recognise and honour children who have performed outstanding deeds of bravery and selfless sacrifice. Every year the ICCW confers these awards to children below 16years of age.
Applications for these awards are acknowledged from Central or State government departments, Panchayats, Zila Parishads, school authorities as well as state and Union Territory councils for child welfare.
The selection is made by a committee constituted by the ICCW, comprising of representatives from the Secretariats of the President and the Vice-President, various ministries, as well as the Central Social Welfare Board, police, All India Radio, Doordarshan and leading NGOs such as the National Bal Bhavan, SOS, Children's Villages of India, R K Mission and experienced ICCW members.
The awards are announced on November 14 (Children's Day) and the Prime Minister presents the awards on the eve of Republic Day. The awardees receive a medal, certificate and cash as a token of their indispensable courage.
In addition to this, some of them are also granted financial assistance to complete their schooling (ICCW's sponsorship programme) and professional courses such as medical and engineering (under the Indira Gandhi scholarship scheme). Assistance is also provided to some till they complete their graduation.
The bravery awards are one of the most prestigious civil awards in India. There are a number of different awards given under the National Bravery Awards category and these awards include:
• The Bharat Award, (incepted in 1987)
• The Sanjay Chopra Award (incepted in since 1978)
• The Geeta Chopra Award (incepted in 1978)
• The Bapu Gayadhani Award (incepted in 1988)
• The National Bravery Award (incepted in 1957)
24 children below the age of 16 years receive the awards every year and the awards are given on the occasion of Children's Day that is on 14th November. The Government of India incepted the award in the year 1957 and total 756 children have been awarded, so far. Out of these children, 541 are boys and the rest 215 are girls. In the year 2009, 21 children were conferred with the National Bravery Awards.
Sanjay Chopra Award and Geeta Chopra Award are two of the most coveted awards among the National Bravery Awards. The awards were instituted in the year 1978 in the memory of the two brave Chopra children, who laid their lives while confronting their kidnappers. These two awards are presented to a boy and girl, respectively for their acts of bravery. The Bharat Award is considered the highest award among all the National Bravery Awards. This award was incepted in the year 1987 and the other prestigious award in this category, named the Bapu Gayadhani Award was started to be presented from 1988.
History of National Bravery Award: The National Bravery Award was a brainchild of India`s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who thought about it on 2nd October, 1957, while watching a performance at Delhi`s Ramlila grounds, at the Red Fort. An accident occurred in that programme, when a fire broke out in a Shamiana, due to a short circuit. A 14 year-old scout, named Harish Chandra reacted bravely at that time and he instantly ripped open the burning Shamiana, using his knife. This boy saved hundreds of people who were trapped inside. Pandit Nehru was stunned and inspired with the brave act of that child and he instructed the authorities to constitute an award to honour brave children from all over the country. Action was taken immediately and Harish Chandra became the first one to receive this award. The tradition has continued since then and the last award was given in the year 2009. The Government of India has also released a commemorative book titled `Brave Hearts` in 2001 that features the winners of the 1999 National Bravery Awards.
Selection Process of National Bravery Award: The selection of the National Bravery Awards winners is made from the applications received from different sources like the Central or State Government departments, Panchayats, Zilla Parishad (District Councils), School Authorities and also from the State and Union Territory Councils for child welfare. The Indian Council for Child Welfare constitutes a special committee for the selection of the awardees. The committee comprises representatives from the secretariats of the President and the Vice- President, various Government Ministries and Departments and also representatives from the Central Social Welfare Board, the Indian Police, All India Radio, Doordarshan, etc. Some of the leading NGOs in India like the National Bal Bhavan, SOS Children`s Villages of India, Ramakrishna Mission, also have their representatives in the committee and the senior ICCW members also share their opinions about the selection.
Awardees of National Bravery Award: The recipients of the National Bravery Awards get a medal, a certificate and also cash award. The Bharat Awardees receive a Gold Medal, while the other awardees receive silver medals. The Government of India also provides financial aid to the awardees to complete their schooling, without any hindrances. This financial assistance is given as a part of the sponsorship programme of the Indian Council for Child Welfare and the Government of India also help the children to pursue specialised courses like medical and engineering, under the Indira Gandhi Scholarship Scheme. Reservation of some seats in Medical and Engineering Colleges and Polytechnics for the winners of the award has also been announced by the Government of India in the year 2009. Some of the recipients of the awards continue to get support from the government, till they complete their graduation.
The names of the award winning children are announced on 14th of November, every year and the children receive the award from the Prime Minister of the country, on a later date. A reception is also organised in their honour by the President of India and they take part in the Republic Day Parade at Rajpath, Delhi, on 26th January, as well.