Hundreds of stories of resilience emerged during the lockdown, which pushed lakhs of migrant workers and their families from their city dwellings to make seemingly-impossible journeys back to their home states.
Jyoti Kumari’s was one such story — the 16-year-old cycled 1,200 km from Haryana’s Sikandarpur to her village in Bihar’s Darbhanga with her ailing father riding pillion. The story captured the imagination of the country, with offers from the Cycling Federation of India, political party LJP wanting to fund her education and even the announcement of a film to be made on her called Atmanirbhar.
On Monday, Jyoti was one of 32 children from across the country who virtually received the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar (PMRBP) award from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Selected from 32 districts of 21 states and UTs, seven awards have been given in the field of Art and Culture, nine have been given for Innovation and five for scholastic achievements. Seven children have won in the sports category, three have been felicitated for bravery and one child has been honoured for her efforts in the field of social service. Each award carries a medal, a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, a certificate and a citation.
Jyoti received her award for bravery.
The Prime Minister interacted with a number of the awardees via video conferencing, congratulating them and saying that this year’s awards were especially significant as the recipients “earned them in the difficult times of Covid-19 pandemic”.
Calling the achievements of the awardees astonishing, the Prime Minister further said that the future scientists, sportspeople, CEOs and leaders of the country would come from among them.
“You will receive many congratulations, mentions in media reports and even interviews after this. But remember to tie your ideas with action and continue to make efforts and take action. Whenever a cause has been somehow connected with children, it has always been successful. Even during the pandemic, the movement for washing hands gained popularity among children and was therefore successful,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister also asked the children to make three pledges — a pledge of consistency, that is, no slackening of speed of the action; a pledge for the country, to work for the country; and a pledge of humility.
Kaamya Karthikeyan, a 13-year-old mountaineer from Mumbai, said that she had held numerous webinars during the lockdown, encouraging others to become climbers and as soon as the lockdown ended. Karthikeyan was interacting with Modi from Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla, where she has started her training to be able to climb Mount Denali, the highest peak in the US state of Alaska, in June.
Others who interacted with the Prime Minister included 16-year-old archer from Jharkhand Savita Kumari, 15-year-old painter from Manipur Venish Keisham, 15-year-old Rakeshkrishna from Karnataka for the invention of a machine that enables fast sowing of seeds and preserves 50 per cent water and 17-year-old Mohd Shadab from Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh, who works for women’s empowerment and wants to work in human rights at the UN.