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How many of us respond positively to our neighbours' SOS? No doubt. Very few. Whatever the reasons may be, people become materialistic and selfish. Most of us don't bother about the fellow beings' troubles. But still, there are some people who selflessly fight for the cause of the society, even at the cost of their lives. Godfrey Philips India Ltd. instituted the Red & White awards in 1990, to honour brave common people who emerge victorious in the face of odds and give help to others, selflessly.

The awardees at the functionFive such real life heroes were honoured by Director General of Police H.J. Dora, with the Red & White Bravery Awards. The awards were given under two categories - "Physical Bravery" and "Social Acts of Courage". The criteria for the awards include "personal risk, situational intensity, selflessness, foresight and perseverance." Among the five who got the rare honour were, Mr. Rajgopal, Mr. Chittibabu of the twin cities and Mr. DPR Prabhu, Dr. Ramesh and Ms. Vijaya Lakshmi belong to Prakasam, Chittoor and East Godavari districts respectively. According to the citations read at the award presentation function, their acts of courage are exemplary and inspiring.

Take the case of Rajgopal, who risked his life to prevent a robbery attempt at his neighbour's house. Despite being stabbed twice and hit with a rod, he managed to save his friend's family and property. Today, he is honoured with a gold medal for his physical bravery. When asked why he put his life at risk, he says, with a smile: "At that moment, I just wanted to stop the thieves at any cost. So, whatever came to my mind, I did it. The happiness one gets out helping others cannot be measured."

The 68-year-old ex-army officer has a different story to tell. Mr. D.V.R. Prabhu, former deputy group commander of Calcutta Home Guards, was given the special physical bravery award. During the conflict with Pakistan in 1971, Prabhu had saved the Howrah Bridge. On December 8, 1971, he caught a captain of America's seventh fleet taking photographs of the bridge putting his life at risk.

Ms. Vijaya Lakshmi is an advocate by vocation and social activist working at the grass root level for the upliftment and empowerment of women below the poverty line through employment. She runs about six mahila mandals and 100 self-help groups in the East Godavari district (Rajahmundry and surrounding villages). Through Sri Kandukuri Veereshlingam Educational and Welfare Society, she extends vocational training to women in 46 trades including pottery making, ready-made garments, wool knitting, soft toys and gem cutting. "Our motto is generating employment using low-cost machinery. We also bring about awareness among women about health, environment, education, family planning, social evils and AIDS," says Lakshmi, the gold-medal winner in Social Acts of Bravery Category.

Dr. Ramesh Babu is a pioneer, working on the prevention of AIDS/HIV and removing misconceptions on blood donation. To practice what he propagates, he donated blood 74 times in 14 years. Understanding that circumstances and litigations play an important role in his patients' life, the silver-medal winner acquired a law degree. He now advises his patients (diagnosed HIV positive) legally too on issues like employment, marital / divorce, discrimination, legal-medical insurances and human rights.

Chittibaburao, an APSRTC conductor, was given the bronze medal for social acts of courage. He was terminated from service in 1985 for taking money without issuing a ticket to a woman passenger. However, since he had no bad intentions and was an inadvertent act he was reinstated in 1991. Chittibaburao said that during the six years when he was out of service, he struggled to make both ends meet and this inspired him to contribute a day's salary every month towards governments Rs. 2 rice scheme earlier and contribute a day's salary every month towards the Andhra Pradesh State Legal Services Authority of High Court now.

The 10th Red & White Bravery Awards list was finalised by eminent panel comprising Mr. P.M. Bhargava, former director of CCMB; S.S. Khosla, chief commissoner of customs and excise and Blue Cross President, Mrs. Amala Akkineni. Godfrey & Philips has been presenting the Red & White bravery in Delhi, Gujarat, Maharastra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. In its endeavour to extend the awards nationwide Godfrey included Andhra Pradesh into the list for the first time and the awards were presented on July 18, 2001.


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