Gangtok, Jan 5: Twenty two-year-old Pratap Rai may be one of those young lads that this country will remember for his valour and determination.
No, he is not an Army man or Navy man, neither did he fight for the independance of any nation. But, he most certainly had a strong heart and no fear for his own life when he saved the lives of several people from drowning when the bus they were traveling fell into the Teesta in October 2006.
Pratap has been selected to receive the Sarvottam Jeewan Raksha padak, the highest civilian bravery award of the country. In a letter to the state government, under secretary at the Union Ministry of Home affairs Arvind Mukherjee informed that the president had approved the name and recommendation sent by the former for the bravery award.
The Ministry had asked the state government to organise an investiture ceremony at a time and date convenient to present the decoration which includes a medallion and certificate as well as a miniature medal that can be worn at official ceremonies and state functions. He will also get a lump sum cash award of Rs 75,000 along with the medallion and the certificate.
On October 25, a fatal bus accident occurred at 20th Mile, near Bageykhola on the National Highway 31A between Singtam and Rangpo.
The Sikkim Nationalised Transport bus tumbled 500 feet below the road and plunged into the Teesta river killing 22 passengers and injuring 44 others.
At the time of the accident, Pratap, a resident of Samardung slum, was a witness to what was happening from across the river, near which the accident occurred. With daunting courage, he risked his life and swam across the heavy current of the river and rescued three people from drowning. He also helped the rescue agencies in the evacuation of the injured persons to local hospitals.
For his bravery, Pratap had already received the state Jeewan Raksha Puraskar during the Independence day celebrations last year.
The award included a citation and Rs 10,000 cash reward. This is the second time a Sikkimese boy has bagged the Sarvottam Jeewan raksha padak. Earlier, the award was posthumously awarded to Prem Pariyar, a rafting guide in 2,000 for a rare display of indomitable courage and response to the call of duty.
Pariyar had saved six persons, which included tourists from drowning during a rafting expedition. He lost his own life while saving the life of others.