Nishikant Vasudeo Kale And Prakash Muralidhar Laddha
Month Year: December 2006
Green Teacher Award
They work as a team, and their mission is to create a veritable army of young Indians who grow up to respect the Earth. They use the tiger as a symbol for the protection of all wild plants and animals, with the Melghat Tiger Reserve and the Satpura region as their living canvas. Both Prof. Kale and Prakash Laddha are models that good educationists should try to emulate. Though they are professors on whom thousands depend for advice and guidance, they insist they are themselves students of nature first.
Nishikant Vasudeo Kale and Prakash Muralidhar Laddha’s conservation actions have taken the form of student sensitisation, awareness and action in the Satpura region of Central India and their impact on young minds is palpable.
Kale, who teaches mechanical engineering, was, in fact, one of the founding members of the Nature for Conservation Society of Amravati, an organisation for whom environmental education is an article of faith. He initiated teacher training programmes in the Vidharba region and remains an outspoken advocate for the protection of nature. Away from academia, he is out challenging poachers and has been involved in raids that ended up with the arrest of bird traders and a hyena skin seizure at Amravati. Kale has also studied the wild buffalo forests of Gadchiroli and the habitat and behaviour of Forest Owlets in Melghat that were presumed extinct for decades. After the Sariska debacle, he has redoubled efforts to protect the tigers in the Satpuras. His hectic schedule leaves him with little time for himself, but when he can he takes time out to enjoy plants, butterflies and indulge in his hobby of photography. Prakash Muralidhar Laddha carries his campaigns right into his classrooms. His work goes way beyond rhetoric. His dogged persistence transformed the way the administration perceives environment education. This green teacher has helped organise teacher training programmes in Amravati in collaboration with the Education Department.
He is the change he wishes to see and this is reflected in his Spartan lifestyle. He always carries a cloth bag in his pocket and loses no opportunity to demonstrate to teachers the importance of setting a good example for students. His drive against tree felling, collection of nirmalaya (decomposable offerings such as flowers and sweets) and vermicomposting in Amravati and his campaigns involving children were even lauded by the Magistrate Court and the High Court (Nagpur Bench). His participation in a Save Satpura march almost 15 years ago wakened him to the mass deforestation of the Satpura region. But he transformed dismay into affirmative action by launching innovative campaigns in schools. Laddha’s mission today is to create an army of green teachers. Both Prof. Kale and Prakash Laddha are models that good educationists should try to emulate. They are successfully passing the green baton on to generations, even as they fight to protect their vanishing natural heritage.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXVI No. 6, December 2006.