Brave faces wont hide - Darjeeling students shun fear and reveal their identity

(From left) Shivani Gond, Kamlesh Rai Pradhan and Tejasweeta Pradhan in New Delhi.

Two girls from Darjeeling who were selected for a national bravery award have shown courage and decided to reveal their identity despite fear for their lives.

Tejasweeta Pradhan, a Class XII student of Loreto Convent in Darjeeling, and Shivani Gond, who reads in Class XI of St Teresa Higher Secondary School here, were selected by the Indian Council for Child Welfare for the Geeta Chopra Award for helping police bust a human trafficking ring.

The duo posed as girls willing to leave the hill town to take up jobs in metros. Their act as decoys helped the police catch three trafficking agents and the racket's kingpin in Gurgaon last year.

Soon after their selection, the students and their parents had refused to divulge their identity raising security concerns.

Tejasweeta and Shivani reached Delhi on January 16 along with their parents to receive the award and decided to disclose their identities.

Kamlesh Rai Pradhan, mother of Tejasweeta, said over the phone from Delhi: "Upon reaching Delhi, our families held discussions among ourselves and felt that we should come out in the open and face this challenge. We were definitely worried for the security of our daughters but we felt that we needed to be brave and carry on the fight against human traffickers."

"It would make little sense accepting a bravery award in a closed room or wearing a mask and hiding from the world," said Kamlesh. The Darjeeling girls reached Delhi on January 16. #On reaching Delhi, said Bishal speaking over the phone.<>

The two families then gave a no-objection certificate to officials of the ICCW and a Darjeeling based NGO, Mankind in Action for Rural Growth (MARG) stating their desire to reveal the identities of the two girls. The students had volunteered to work with MARG to bust the racket. "We submitted an NOC to the council and MARG so that they were not held liable," said Kamlesh.

Nirnay John Chhetri, the founder of MARG, said: "Four members from the Students Against Trafficking club had helped bust the racket. The two other students are Neena Rai and Shalini. However, they were not qualified for the award as they are above 18. MARG will, however, raise funds for the future education of Neena and Shalini."

The winners will be receiving the award from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 23 and taking part in the Republic Day parade.



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