G.C. SHEKHAR, Telegraph
The award, named after the astronaut who died in a space shuttle crash, was given to Premila in recognition of her courageous act of seizing more than 50 trucks that were illegally transporting rice and kerosene meant for ration card holders to neighbouring Kerala.
The award included a gold-plated medal, a certificate and Rs 5 lakh in cash.
After receiving the award in Chennai, Premila had told reporters that the support given by revenue inspector Jothishkumar and jeep driver John Bright was crucial in carrying out her duty.
Earlier this week, the officer handed over cheques of Rs 1 lakh each to Jothishkumar and Bright from her prize money. “They need to share the honour that I received from the government,” Premila said.
Bright acknowledged the gesture. “We knew that she was brave and honest. Now she has also shown her magnanimity,” he said.
Premila, 38, had joined the revenue department as a junior assistant when she was 19 after her father, a village officer, had died suddenly and she was given the job on compassionate grounds. “I never shied away from taking risks and refused to be a spectator to the smuggling of ration goods to be sold at huge profits in another state,” she said.
She has so far seized more than 50 trucks involved in smuggling 110 tonnes of ration rice, 22,000 litres of kerosene and 1.5 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. “On some occasions we used to chase the trucks as in movies,” she said.
Despite threats, she ensured that repeat offenders were booked under the Goondas Act that kept them in jail for a year.