Vivek Deshpande

Wind Under The Wings Award (2010)

Vivek Deshpande And The Indian Express, Nagpur, Deshpande has spent the last decade defending wildlife the best way he knows how – using his pen.  His in-depth articles have covered human-animal conflict, the illegal antler trade, the timber mafia and the occasional misdemeanors of Forest Department officials gone wrong.  Not one to be cowed by money or threats from politicians, he even exposed a transport minister involved in a chinkara poaching case and a former Forest Secretary, who was ultimately accused of collusion with illegal saw mills and mines around Maharashtra’s tiger landscape. His persistent reportage also exposed the darker side of the Forest Rights Act and how it was misused in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. In search of the truth and in defence of the wildlife he loves, he has often put himself in harm’s way.

In 2007, a tiger had allegedly killed four people in the Talodhi range of the North Chandrapur forest adjoining the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. Under immense political pressure, the Forest Department eventually had to shoot it dead. Deshpande wrote with passion about the unnecessary loss of life, both human and animal. In his view that situation could have been prevented had buffer zone and corridor management practices being advocated for years been put into practice. He wrote endlessly on the subject and was rewarded when the National Tiger Conservation Authority ordered an enquiry not only into this death, but the overall condition of Maharashtra’s tiger reserves. But Deshpande was not satisfied. He persevered until a Conservation Corridor Programme was devised by the state to enhance protection of carnivores and their prey outside Protected Areas.

 Vivek Deshpande is a game changer who lives the dictum: the pen is mightier than the sword. This is why we have honoured him