Nirmala Deshpande (Devanagari: निर्मला देशपांडे) (October 19, 1929 – May 1, 2008) was a noted Indian social activist who had embraced Gandhian philosophy. She devoted her adult life to promotion of communal harmony and service to women, tribal people, and the dispossessed in India.
She was awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of India in 2006.
Deshpande was born to Vimala (विमला) and Purushottam Yashawant Deshpande (पुरुषोत्तम यशवंत देशपांडे) in Nagpur on October 19, 1929. Her father was the recipient of a Sahitya Akademi Award in 1962 for his work in Marathi Anamikachi Chintanika (अनामिकाची चिंतनिका).
She did MA in Political Science from Nagpur, India, She also studied Fergusson College, Pune. Thereafter, she served as lecturer in Political Science in Morris College, Nagpur.
Deshpande joined Vinoba Bhave's Bhoodan movement in 1952. She undertook a 40,000-km journey on foot --padayatra-- across India to carry Gandhi's message of Grām Swarāj. She recognized that it was difficult to practice Gandhian principles, yet believed that doing so was the only way towards a truly democratic society.