Shree Devaji Topha
Mr. Dewaji Topha has dedicated himself to the development of Tribals. He believes in decentralization of power. He states, “All the planning made by people sitting in Delhi or Mumbai caters mainly to the needs of the urban sectors and poor people living in remote hamlets of rural India hardly find it useful.” His favorite slogan is, “You (may) govern Mumbai and Delhi but we rule our own villages”. His methodology is simple and straightforward – the villagers should discuss and finalise their local needs in the Village Panchayat and the administration must only implement the same. Thanks to his efforts, the tiny hamlet Mendha Lekha (Gadchiroli district), one of the most backward areas of Maharashtra, is the first in India to secure forest rights. Mr. Dewaji also gave his speech in Gond language in a conference arranged in Durban, South Africa.
Mr. Dnyaneshwar Choudhari
Mr. Dnyaneshwar Choudhari was born on 6/4/1976 at Lakhanwadi in Buldhana District. From the day he was appointed as forest officer in the Forest Department till he was working at Bhor sanctuary, Mr.Choudhari has given trainings and awakened people in the areas like Pench Tiger Project (Maharashtra), Kanha National Project (Madya Pradesh), Tadoba Tiger Project (Chandrapur) and Melghat Tiger Project (Amrawati). He is honored with Vasundhara Award in this year’s Vasundhara Festival.
Gondia Nature Association
In 2003, the world heard of the shocking news that only 4 Saras (Crane) birds visited Maharashtra, that too, for the last time. Out of these, 2 were sighted at Navegaon Shungarghodi Bund and the other 2 at Junona Lake in Chandrapur. It was strongly believed that their natural habitat was Gondia. Thus, with the help of Satpuda Foundation and Gondia Nature Association, a search has been started from Salkasa to Tiroda (100 kms area) and in the areas around Wagh and Vainganga rivers. Out of those 4 birds, 2 were found in a small boat at Ghattemani (close to Kamag) and the other 2 were found at the riverbed of Wagh River, near Shirola village. As a part of its responsibility, the Association then collected information about these birds from the villagers. It was observed that the number of birds wasn’t increasing due to killing and collection of their eggs. This situation was discussed with the higher authorities in the village, and with the help of the Head of village, the police and socially reputed people from the Harit Sena; the Association convinced the people by educating them about these birds through public awareness programs. With the assistance of activists gathered from different villages, they started the bird protection work. Due to the contribution of these people, the Saras bird is protected and its number has increased from 4 to 63 in Gondia and the surrounding regions (35-40 kms).