The brave efforts of a woman and her teenaged daughter in fighting off thieves in their Cuddalore home won them the Kalpana Chawla award for bravery from Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Independence Day. D Rajalakshmi and her daughter Shivaranjani, an engineering student, were fast asleep on the night of February 29, when two thieves gained entry to their house in Bhuvanagiri in Cuddalore district.
When the men threatened Rajalakshmi asking her to hand over the valuables, including her gold 'thali', the daughter picked up an iron rod and beat them. "My father was not in town then. I knew I had to save my mother," 18-year-old Shivaranjani told after receiving the award. She said one of the robbers caught hold of her mother's 'thali' and pushed Rajalakshmi to the floor. "We tried hard, but one of the thieves ran away with my mother's thali," she said.
However, the two women managed to catch the other thief. They alerted the Bhuvanagiri police. "We arrested the man, who managed to escape, and recovered the thali from him," said a police officer. The Kalpana Chawla award carries 5 lakh in cash and a citation. The chief minister also presented several other awards. Earlier, in a colourful ceremony, Jayalalithaa was escorted by the city police motor bike outriders to Fort St George.
She was received by chief secretary Debendranath Sarangi at the venue. The chief minister took the salute of ceremonial guard of honour before unfurling the national flag on the ramparts of the fort. A big crowd had gathered for the event with small flags pinned to their clothes. In her speech, the chief minister recalled a song from a film of her mentor M G Ramachandran, to issue a warning to wrong-doers.
"Commit a wrong, and knowingly at that, and I will not spare them, even if they are Gods," she said. At the end of her address she said, "It is not just that I am here for you, but I am here because of you." Later, Governor K Rosaiah hosted the Independence Day reception at Raj Bhavan. The chief minister, assembly speaker D Jayakumar, ministers, service personnel and other dignitaries participated.
The governor released the tricolour balloons to mark the 66th Independence Day celebrations. Cultural programmes organized by the South Zone Cultural Centre were canceled following the death of Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.