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Salute to heroes for good deeds

Rescuing people from the Stephen Court and AMRI fires, helping girls continue studies, giving children living on railway platforms or the streets a new home, spotting football talents and grooming them — the four winners of this year’s Officer’s Choice Anandalok Salaam Bengal awards have given back to society in various fields — education, sports, medicine and bravery — away from the public eye.

The award, in its fourth year, had Grandmaster Dibyendu Barua, fashion designer Agnimitra Paul, critical care expert Subrata Maitra and singer Lopamudra Mitra as jury members.

“We are all busy working for ourselves. This award is for those who work for others,” said Paul. Maitra, a second-time jury member, pointed out that felicitating those who work away from the limelight would inspire others as well.

The loudest applause of the evening was reserved for Tarun Mukherjee. He is no Spider-man but on March 23, 2010, he tiptoed precariously along the cornice of a burning Stephen Court and rescued people trapped inside, holding on to hanging cables for support. He was back in action a year ago, saving patients during the AMRI fire.

“What the boy did is awe-inspiring. He is brave and showed presence of mind too,” said Madhuraka Nag, a homemaker from Narendrapur, while giving Mukherjee a standing ovation as he received the trophy and certificate.

Arijit Mitra was the first to be called on stage at Vidya Mandir. Under the banner of Kalyan Kumar Mitra Education and Research Society, set up in his father’s name, the tax consultant offers scholarships to girls who do not have the means to continue studies. “Girls in poor households find it more difficult to carry on in school or college than boys. Since 2010, we have disbursed 79 scholarships,” he said. Mitra also distributes stationery and textbooks. “Next year, we will give away 40 bicycles to girls in three villages whose schools are far from their homes.”

Twenty-seven years ago Kallol Ghosh was rattled by the news of 13 children being buried under coal dust in Belghoria. “They made a living sorting tiny pieces of coal from the dust and selling them for a pittance,” Ghosh recalled. Himself a student then, Ghosh, along with friends, set up a home at Baranagar to provide shelter to kids rescued from railway platforms or the streets by police or NGOs. “Today they go to school and learn computers. The older ones have found jobs.”

In 1999, Ghosh set up another home for children with intellectual disability. “Some of the boarders work at our child-friendly bakery unit in Baruipur. It is part of their therapy,” Ghosh said. Another home he set up in 2000 is possibly the only shelter in eastern India for HIV-positive children. “We have 62 kids who are by birth HIV-positive.”

Amiya Kumar Ghosh has been “moulding idols out of lumps of clay” for 40 years. The 68-year-old from Behala initially spotted football talents for his club Behala Jayashree Kalyan Sangha, then for 12 years for East Bengal and for a couple of years for the Bengal sub-junior team which became the national champion during his tenure as coach.

“For 15 years now, I have been with Mohun Bagan.” From Biswajit Das, the former East Bengal goalie, to Rahim Nabi, the Mohun Bagan striker, they have all played under his eagle eye. “I have won many trophies as coach of a victorious team but this is my greatest award,” he said.

The evening ended on a musical note with performances by Subhomita and Anupam.