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The boy who saved 'Chacha Nehru'

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Bengaluru, Nov 14: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was called 'Chacha Nehru', 'Chacha ji' for his love for kids. His affection for children is well recognised and appreciated and thus the day is celebrated as Children's Day. On the birthday of India's first Prime Minister, it is apt to recall how he was saved by a 14-year-old scout in Delhi.

The boy who saved Chacha Nehru

What happened on Gandhi Jayanti day?

On Gandhi Jayanti day, 2 October 1957, Jawaharlal Nehru, was watching a performance Delhi's Ramlila ground, at the Red Fort. During the performance, a short circuit caused a fire to break out in a shamiana (decorated tent).

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Without concern for his own safety, 14-year-old scout, Harish Chandra Mehra entered the burning shamiyana, scaled the 20 feet high electric pole and cut off the burning cloth. Harish promptly took out his knife and ripped open the burning tent, saving the lives of hundreds of trapped people. The boy suffered injuries on his left hand.

He recalls, "One day our school principal came to our class and informed me that I had been nominated for a special National Gallantry Award which was being instituted by the Prime Minister. I got that award from Nehruji at Teen Murti Bhavan in February 1958. My parents were also with me. Pandit Nehru said to them, Your son has saved my life and he will certainly become a great man in his lifetime.' Indira Gandhi was also present there. Pandit Nehru remained with us for around 15 minutes. My parents were so happy that after the meeting they distributed sweets to the people in our locality."

This incident inspired Nehru to ask the authorities to establish an award to honour brave children from all over the country. The first official National Bravery Awards were presented to Harish Chandra and one other child on 4 February 1958, by Prime Minister Nehru, and the ICCW ( Indian Council for Child Welfare) has continued the tradition ever since.

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India started celebrating Children's Day in 1959. Initially, it was celebrated on November 20 along with other countries. But after Nehru's death in 1964, it was unanimously decided to celebrate his birthday as Children's Day.

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