Rs 60 lakh no price for valour
Even in penury, Umrao Singh?s family says nothing in the world can buy the ?symbol of pride?, reports Rahul Singh.india Updated: Jun 30, 2006 03:03 IST
A collector of rare military artifacts has offered Rs 60 lakh to the family of late Honorary Capt Umrao Singh for the Victoria Cross (VC) awarded to him for his daring exploits against the Japanese infantry in Kaladhan Valley, Burma, during World War II.
Proving that valour cannot be measured in monetary terms, the family which lives in Palra village of Haryana's Jhajjar district, has refused to part with "the symbol of pride," the highest award in the British Honours system. India's last surviving VC winner, Umrao Singh, who died on November 21 last year, had spurned many offers from international collectors too.
Umrao Singh's grandson, Sukhbir Yadav, told the Hindustan Times, "Given that we barely manage to make ends meet, Rs 60 lakh is a lot of money. But the VC made my grandfather one of the most recognisable mascots of Haryana and also nudged our backward village into prominence. The medal cannot be traded for anything in this world."
In an unprecedented move, the army had organised a recruitment drive exclusively for Palra in January 2005, as a mark of respect towards Umrao Singh. As many as 25 boys were recruited, at the end of the drive.
Created by Royal Warrant in January 1856, VCs have always been in great demand for their rarity and the fact that they are almost never sold. Since the inception of the medal, a total of 1,355 VCs have been awarded. There have been instances of some medals being stolen from museums.
Anil Malik, a Delhi-based collector who has made the Rs 60-lakh offer to the family on behalf of his clients abroad, told HT, "The VCs have always been highly priced in the international market compared to any other award. Indian gallantry awards figure nowhere close. There are more buyers and the price even steeper, if the VC comes with the original citation."
On the other hand, the British Military Cross, instituted in December 1914, also awarded for valour during wartime, does not fetch more than "Rs 50,000-60,000."
With about 100 VCs, British politician Michael Ashcroft is said to be the world's largest private collector of these medals.
Umrao Singh's son, Ved Prakash, a head constable in Haryana Police, said, "Nothing can be more shameful than giving away the symbol of my father's heroism for materialistic reasons."