Wind Under The Wings Award (2005)
For our newly-instituted Wind Under the Wings Award, we were in search of an Indian organisation that has supported an individual who has made a difference. We were looking for an institution that encouraged naturalists, conservationists, journalists and/or other professionals to defend nature by making resources available and by providing the intellectual space for people to follow their dream. We zeroed in on the Indian Express that has built its reputation on a consistent ‘Journalism of Courage’. Its committment to democracy was palpable during the infamous Emergency, but today, their penchant for courage and investigation was in clear evidence in the shape of the incisive investigative report written by Jay Mazoomdaar on January 21, 2005, which exposed the truth behind the death of the tigers of Sariska. And when the Sariska story revealed a larger, deeper national tiger crisis, Shekhar Gupta, Editor, of the Indian Express asked Mazoomdaar to personally visit many more tiger reserves – Ranthambhore, Panna, Indravati, Corbett, Kanha, Palamau and Valmiki – over a span of four months.
Mazoomdaar’s reports were published prominently and continually on the front pages of the Indian Express. The Editor provided him with the resources he needed to unravel the tentacles of the poaching trade and to expose the fact that the government’s protective wildlife machinery, carefully put together over the past three decades, had been severely undermined by political and bureaucratic interference. When an institution provides its employees with the necessary ‘space’ – literally and figuratively – the institution is strengthened. And since the free press is one of the most vital pillars of democracy, democracy itself is strengthened. For allowing one of their own to make a difference to wildlife protection in India, this award goes to the Indian Express, New Delhi.