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Chandigarh: The Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust will, on Wednesday, confer the Neerja Bhanot Award on Subhashini Vasanth,who set up a foundation to create a support system for the well-being of families of soldiers who laid down their lives in the service of the nation.
Vasanth is the founder trustee of the Vasantharatna Foundation, started in the memory of her husband, Col. Vasanth V, who was awarded the Ashok Chakra (posthumous) in 2008 for his selfless, supreme sacrifice while fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. The award will be presented by Sonam Kapoor, who is playing the lead role in the biopic "Neerja", which will be released next month.
The vision of the foundation is to be able to touch the lives of all such families across the nation, a spokesman of the awards committee said here on Tuesday. "Her (Vasantha) own personal loss motivated her to start the foundation The objectives were to empower women and educate them and their children, besides providing emotional, legal, and financial counselling. It also works as a bridge between the society, government agencies and the families of martyrs," said Akhil Bhanot, managing trustee of the Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust.
The foundation provides education scholarships, conducts empowerment programs and 'Outbound Learning Programmes' for women and children, provides vocational training and employment opportunities to families and institutes memorial awards in honour of martyrs, Bhanot added.
"This is the 24th year of the annual award, which comprises Rs.150,000 cash reward, a citation and a trophy. The awardee is selected by a specially constituted jury," he added. Vasanth, recognized as a National level artiste by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, is an eminent Bharatnatyam exponent. She has performed in several dance festivals, both in India and abroad.
Chandigarh braveheart Neerja Bhanot gave up her life at the age of 23 years to save American children during a terrorist hijack of a Pan-Am flight in Pakistan's Karachi international airport in 1986.
Neerja, who was the chief flight purser of Pan-Am 73 (Bombay-Karachi-Frankfurt-New York) flight, was killed in the shootout following the hijack on September 5, 1986. The Libyan terrorists had entered the aircraft posing as Pakistani Police personnel, carrying arms and hand grenades.
The hijack had left 20 people dead and 150 others injured after a bloodbath at the Karachi airport.