The Neerja Bhanot Award, instituted in the memory of senior flight purser, Neerja Bhanot, who saved hundreds of lives while sacrificing her own, will be conferred to Dr Sarojini Agarwal, this year. The winner is presented with a sum of Rs 1,50,000, a citation and a trophy. The criteria is that the awardee must be an Indian woman who when subjected to social injustice, faces the situation, overcomes it and then helps others in distress.
This year, the proud winner of the award is Dr Sarojini Agarwal. The award will be presented to her by Prof Kaptan Singh Solanki, Haryana governor on September 7 at the PHD Chambers, in Chandigarh. In 1978, Agarwal lost her eight-year-old daughter, in a hit-and-run accident. Although, she plunged into grief, Agarwal made up her mind to look after destitute girls, who for want of proper protection and guidance are forced to lead a tough life. She then decided to set-up a home ‘Manisha Mandir’ for such girls, with an aim to provide protection, love and motherly care.
Overcoming all initial problems, ‘Manisha Mandir’ finally took shape on September 24, 1984, (her daughter’s birthday) and ever since, has been catering to the need and requirements of destitute girls. Till now, over 700 girls have not just been provided shelter, clothing and food by Agrawal, but also love, warmth and care. The idea, Agarwal says is to ensure that the girls develop overall confidence and become self-dependent. To achieve this objective, apart from lodging, food and other daily requirements, Agrawal imparts training and education for their upliftment, including training them in various arts and crafts and providing them knowledge of technical and professional subjects.
“They must be self-reliant and independent. Many of them have made their mark as bank managers, teachers and principals,” says Agrawal, adding that ‘Manisha Mandir’ is not an orphanage, but a home.