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Bravery award winner recalls how he rescued a girl from an open drain

With the monsoon here and leopard spreading fear in Powai, a bravery award winner speaks about he rescued a girl from an open drain. Another saved a friend from a leopard attack

Every time the monsoon season arrives, Dombivali resident and bravery award winner, Rohit Janmanchi (19) thinks about the time when he saved a little girl who had fallen into an open drain one dark, July night. Remembering that day, the Hardware Networking student who was 17 at the time says, "I was attending a class at around 8 pm. It was raining heavily, it had rained hard all evening. My friends and I did not have an umbrella and so we decided to wait till the rain stopped. A teacher at our classes came in running saying that a girl had fallen in a drain nearby. That is when we rushed out."

Rohit Janmanchi
AWARDS GALORE: Rohit Janmanchi stands with his bravery awards

Sewage salvage
The girl was returning with her older sister from karate class when she fell in an open drain near Madhavi School in Dombivali, East. Janmanchi continues, "The lights had gone out and it was pitch dark with the rain pouring down. One could see lightning and hear thunder. The roads were flooded, a crowd had gathered. A girl was crying saying her sister had fallen in a drain. My friends and I immediately jumped in the gutter."

Flooding
WATER WOES: Flooding and waterlogging in the city caused many problems last year Representational pic

While many people stood and watched, the Sarvoday Park resident waded through the stinking drainage water and headed towards the drain channel. Janmanchi adds, "I thought going towards the channel would be a good idea and so while others searched around the place where the girl fell, I went deeper. The water was waist-deep and neck-deep in some places and there was no light as I walked on. While I walked, all of a sudden, the girl's leg touched mine and I pulled her up. She was unconscious and was shivering."

leopard
leopard SCARE: Rescue operations being carried out by Sanjay Gandhi National Park officials in Vasai after a leopard attack in March this year. Representational pic

Water hero
I carried her and made my way through the drain as I shouted to my friends who pulled us out. We took the girl to the hospital where the doctors removed water from her chest and lungs," says Janmanchi. Recalling the reaction of his parents when they first heard that he almost drowned trying to save a girl Janmanchi says, "My family, especially my parents were very scared and shouted at me for taking this risk. But when I was appreciated by my college and people in the area, they were very happy. Today, they are very proud of me."

MEDAL MOMENT
Medal moment: Governor of Maharashtra K Sankaranarayanan presents Sanjay Sutar (L) and Akshay Roz (R) with their bravery awards. Pic/ARUN KULKARNI

After coming out of the drain, the student recalls, "I was stinking of the filth from the drain and had leeches, insects and other dirt on my body. I had terrible bites all over. The girl who I saved, had hit her head and was in a worse condition. When I came out, I was too shocked and even today as I think about it, and how I managed to save her, it is still a mystery to me. I think I just wanted to save her and that kept me going in the drain." For his courage, Janmanchi was awarded the national and state bravery awards on Republic Day and Maharashtra Day respectively, earlier this year.

Rohit Janmanchi
FALLING IN: Rohit Janmanchi points to the drain from where he rescued the girl. Pics/Sameer Markande

Leopard laurel
Other recipients of the awards this year were Sanjay Sutar from Umberkhand village in Thane district and his cousin Akshay Roj who lives in Bhiwandi. The duo fought and managed to survive a leopard attack. Talking about the incident, Sanjay Sutar, 18 says, "I remember that day clearly. It was the end of August in 2012. Akshay had come to my house for holidays. I always take my cattle to graze at a pasture behind my house which is also near a forest. Like I do every day, I woke up and took the animals to the pasture. It was around 11:30 am when a few children and we were talking as we sat on a few rocks in the pasture. Suddenly, a leopard jumped out of the forest and attacked Akshay who was 11 at that time. The events all unfolded at a rapid rate."

Sanjay Sutar (L) and Akshay Roz (R)
TWOSCORE: Sanjay Sutar (L) and Akshay Roz (R) are all smiles before they step up to receive their bravery awards

"I felt something dragging me. I was shocked and scared as I saw the leopard and felt it bitting my neck, ear and it had its paws on my arms. I could feel blood trickling down my hands. I remember Sanjay hitting the leopard with his stick, and after that, everything went black. The next thing I remember is that I was in the hospital with bandages," adds Akshay.

Rescue act
Seeing the leopard attack Akshay, the children who had tagged along ran back to the village. Sanjay says, "I froze for some time and then realised what was happening. I had a stick in my hand which I always carry with me; I started beating the leopard with it. The animal ran away and left Akshay, who was bleeding. My father came after the children told him about the attack."

Akshay was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment. Later, he underwent a surgery at JJ Hospital. The eighth standard student says, "I still have the leopard marks on my body. My hands and face are scarred. I am really thankful that I managed to survive and am alive today. The bites were so severe that the bones in my hands were broken, I needed plastic surgery and skin grafting due to my injuries."

"It was the thought that Akshay, who is like my little brother was near death that gave me courage to save him. Today, when I sit and think about the incident I still go cold. I continue to take my herd to graze in the same pasture but am always alert. Since, we live in the forest and are adivasis we live with nature and animals are part of it. My parents and relatives have always said that there was never an attack here before this, so after the incident everyone in the village was shocked. But life goes on as usual now almost two years later," adds Sutar.

Bravery bravado
Akshay says, "After the incident, my teachers and friends kept asking me how I managed to survive. It feels nice to become a hero, but the attack still gives me nightmares. I come to spend my holidays with Sanjay's family, but after the attack my parents were scared for a long time." Because of the scars on his body and for being the boy who lived, the 13-year-old is now called 'Harry Potter' by his school friends.

Akshay ends, "I am concentrating on my studies at the moment and haven't decided what I want to become. This incident and the awards that followed have made me aware about the world and opportunities outside our village. Sanjay and I have gone from simple adivasi boys to heroes."

About the awards

The National bravery awards are given by the Government of India and the Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW). The awards were instituted in 1957.

The National Bravery Awards consist of five categories:      
The Bharat Award,
since 1987   
 
The Sanjay Chopra Award, since 1978 
  
The Geeta Chopra Award, since 1978 
  
The Bapu Gaidhani Award, since 1988  
 
General National Bravery Awards, since 1957 

>> The awards are given to children who are between the ages of six and 18 when they committed their acts of bravery.

>> The award includes a medal, a certificate, and a cash prize. The Bharat Award winner gets a gold medal, while the rest get silver medals.

>> Each child is also given financial assistance to complete his or her schooling, as a part of ICCW's sponsorship program.

>> In 2009, the Government of India announced reservation of some seats in medical, engineering, and polytechnic colleges for the winners of the awards.

Other winners
Shubham Chaudari from Jalgaon won the award for saving two children from a burning car. A school student at the time of the incident, the van carrying fellow students was ablaze and the driver too scared to react. Chaudari broke the car window and saved the children. Tanvi Ovhal from Pune won the award for jumping into a water tank and saving her sister. The two girls were playing hide and seek, when the then seven-year-old's younger sister fell into a huge water tank. Tanvi immediately jumped in and saved her sister.

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