Gallantry awards for civilians: India
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Salim Gafur Shaikh, the driver from Gujarat who saved the lives of 52 people by showing exemplary alacrity and presence of mind when terrorists attacked his bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims in July 2016, was honoured with Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak, the second highest gallantry award for civilians.
Shaikh, who was returning from Amarnath with 60 pilgrims aboard his bus on the evening of July 10, 2017, drove at full speed in the dark, manoeuvring the vehicle with a flat tyre in dangerous mountainous terrain for more than two km as bullets kept whizzing by. Shaikh stopped only when the bus reached a safe spot near a security post.
Eight pilgrims were killed and seven others suffered bullet injuries in the terror attack at Batengoo in Anantnag. When Shaikh was informed about being chosen for the gallantry award, he told TOI: “I would have been happier if the lives of the eight who died in the terror attack could have been saved.”
Shaikh, 37, a resident of Valsad, was among 43 others from across the country whose names were announced ahead of Republic Day for the Jeevan Raksha Padak series of awards 2017 for meritorious act of bravery after approval by the President.
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani had announced last year, after the return of Shaikh and the pilgrims from Amarnath, that his government would recommend his name to the Centre for a bravery award.
A father of three children, Shaikh lives with his family in Abrama in Valsad.
The awards announced on Wednesday include 7 Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak (all posthumous), 13 Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak and 24 Jeevan Raksha Padak.
While Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak awardee receives citation and cash reward of Rs 1lakh for an act of bravery during which he/ she has put his/her life at great risk, Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak fetches a Rs 60,000-reward for one who saves the life of another person, risking grievous injury or physical handicap. Jeevan Raksha Padak entails a cash reward of Rs 40,000 for act of bravery that involves risk of serious injury.