The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brave, honest citizen paean
- Buddha salutes the deserving dozen

Case I: Nine-year-old Sreya Somani screamed as loud as she could when she saw a man enter their Ultadanga flat and attack her mother. Desperate to save her mother, little Sreya then pounced on the 25-year-old goon and refused to let go. Sreya's screams alerted her neighbours, brought in the police and saved the day.

Case II: Thirty-five-year-old Soni Begum, a ragpicker who lives on a city pavement with her three children, found a wad of Rs 500 currency notes while rummaging a vat near Mohammad Ali Park. She went straight to Jorasanko police station and handed over Rs 7,500 to the officer-in-charge.

A band of bravehearts ' right from the little girl who fought off a criminal to the poor woman who didn't think twice about giving up an amount that could have helped her tide over the daily crisis of survival ' shared the spotlight on Wednesday afternoon.

They were all there at Bangla Akademi for a programme organised by Calcutta Police to applaud 12 citizens for setting an example through acts of bravery and honesty.

The deserving dozen received a memento each from chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

'You did a great job. I don't know what I would have done, had I been in your position. I really respect your act,' the chief minister told Sreya.

Bhattacharjee later punctuated his speech to praise the nine-year-old again.

Soni Begum was another star of the evening. As the joint commissioner of police (organisation) Soumen Mitra announced her name, the rag-picker climbed shyly on to the stage and into the limelight, son Amir (who slept through the proceedings) in her arms.

'Apnaar satotar janye aami apnake pronam korchhi (I must salute you for your honesty),' said Bhattacharjee. 'Before handing over the money, you never thought that this could help you feed your children the next day. Our society needs people like you. We all must learn from you what honesty really is.'

Three other women ' Seema Gupta from Girish Park, Maya Mukherjee from Southern Avenue and Madhu Kapoor from Bright Street 'were feted by Bhattacharjee. They had either thwarted robbery attempts or even managed to catch the culprits.

Autorickshaw driver Rampreet Singh was honoured because he had saved a woman from drowning by jumping into the Ganga in the port area.

Taxi driver Ramprasad Singh was felicitated for returning a bag containing Rs 85,000, while Amritalal Bhowmik, a telecom employee, was applauded for returning Rs 1 lakh he had found lying on the road.

Gobardhan Mundra and footballer Rajat Ghosh Dastidar were hailed for stopping armed miscreants in separate acts of daring, while Anil Minda and Kamal Mirdha were praised for helping police arrest some goons.

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