Aum Shri Gurave NamaH!
December 26, 1914--Feb 9, 2008
Baba amte was no saint and he was called Baba by his parents, meaning little one, Baba Amte was a social worker who helped that part of the society and helped them stand on their own feet and live with dignity, who are otherwise shunned, these were the people suffering from Leprosy.
Born on dec 26, 1914 as Murlidhar Devidas Amte in Hingaighat in Maharashtra, the eldest son of an affluent Brahmin Landlord, his life was privileged but he rebelled against injustice and discrimination on the basis of Birth, caste and creed, he was called baba by his parents, meaning little one, he was a respected Indian Social Activist, He founded many ashrams and communities for the service of Leprosy patients and other marginalized people shunned by the society.
After earning his bachelor's degree Mr Amte went to law school at the request of his father, who gave him a sports car with Panther skin seat covers, he graduated in 1936
Trained in law, Baba Amte had a lucrative practice at Wardha. It was then that he got involved in Indian freedom struggle and started acting as a defence lawyer for leaders imprisoned in the 1942 Quit India movement. He was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, with whom he spent some time in Sevagram Ashram. Baba Amte was follower of Gandhism for his entire life. He practiced various aspects of Gandhism including weaving and wearing khadi, dedicating his life to the cause of upliftment of the downtrodden classes of society. Baba Amte believed in Gandhism and followed the ideals laid by Gandhi. After his stay at Sevagram, Gandhi's ashram near Wardha, Baba Amte was fascinated by Gandhi and became his disciple. Gandhi conferred upon Baba Amte the title Abhayasadhak (translated as The Fearless Aspirant), for his fight against leprosy.
All his life, Baba Amte was a follower of the Gandhian philosophy and lead a spartan life. He wore Khadi clothes from the looms of Anandwan, and ate fruits and vegetables grown in Anandwan. He believed in the concept of a self-sufficient village industry for the empowerment of seemingly helpless people, and successfully brought his ideas into practice when he established Anandwan.
Baba Amte also used Gandhian principles to fight against the government. He used the same non-violent means to fight the Indian government during theNarmada Bachao Andolan that Gandhi used against the British Raj.
In spite of his emulation of Gandhi's social and political work, Baba Amte was himself entirely non-religious, and was an atheist. He worked in the Kitchen in Sevagram and learned to manage the donated funds for the social work from Mahatma Gandhi.
In 1946, Baba got married to Sadhana Guleshastri, who was later referred to by community members as Sadhanatai or simply Tai ("elder sister"). Their two sons, Vikas and Prakash, are both doctors. Both have dedicated their lives to social work and causes similar to those of their parents. Elder son Dr. Vikas Amte runs the Maharogi Sewa Samiti ("Leprosy Service Society"). Vikas, along with his wife Dr. Bharati Amte, coordinates operations between Anandwan and satellite projects while also running a hospital at Anandwan. Dr Prakash Amte and his wife Dr. Mandakini Amte run a school and a hospital at Hemalkasa village in the underprivileged district of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. While on a picnic to Bhamragad in Gadchiroli along with his father, Prakash Amte, then a doctor doing his post doctoral studies, was very moved after seeing the misery of Madia Gond tribes in Hemalkasa. In the meanwhile he got married to Dr. Mandakini Amte (later known as Mandatai) who left her government job and moved to Hemalkasa to eventually start a hospital, school and an orphanage for injured wild animals including a lion, leopards and more. Their sons Digant and Aniket are both doctors themselves have decided to dedicate their lives to the same cause.
Anandwan was the first of the three ashrams started by Baba Amte to treat and rehabilitate leprosy victims from the disadvantaged sections of society. After taking a leprosy orientation course at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine, Baba Amte began his fight against leprosy. He used to set up about 11 weekly clinics around Warora, in Chandrapur district. Taking his work to the next level, he started the "Anandwan" (Forest of Joy) ashram in a remote jungle near Warora to help rehabilitate patients. Anandwan was registered in 1951 and received a state land grant of 250 acres. In those days, leprosy was associated with social stigma and patients were disowned by society. It was then believed that leprosy patients were sinners, paying for sins they had committed. There was also a widespread fear that leprosy was contagious and could be spread by touch. Baba Amte strove to dispel these myths and once even allowed bacilli from a leprosy patient to be injected into him while participating in an experimental test.
Baba Amte also founded the Somnath and Ashokvan ashrams for treating leprosy patients. The community development project at Anandwan in Maharashtra is recognised and respected around the world and has done much to dispel prejudice against leprosy victims. Today, Anandwan has two hospitals, a university, an orphanage and also a school for the blind. The self-sufficient ashram unit has more than 5,000 people residing in it.
Baba Amte had not been keeping well for several years in his later life. He was compelled to lie down on a bed for much of the time due to a severe Spondylosis. In 2007, he was diagnosed with Leukemia.
Baba Amte died in Anandwan on Feb 9, 2008, at the age of 93 years, As per his last wish, he was buried and not cremated.
Upon his death, the 14th Dalai Lama, among others, expressed his condolences saying, "His demise is a great loss to all of us. I am an admirer of Baba Amte. I vividly remember my visit to his thriving community of handicapped people at Anandvan in 1990".
Honours and Awards
Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1985. Gandhi Peace Prize in 1999
Damien-Dutton Award USA, 1983 Highest international award in the field of leprosy
United Nations Human Rights Prize, 1988. International Giraffe Award, USA, 1989
The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, USA, 1990, Global 500, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 1991, The Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement
The Rights Livelihood Award, Sweden, Awarded by the Government of India, Padma Shree, 1971, Padma Vibhushan, 1986, Welfare of the Disabled Award, 1986
Dr. Ambedkar International Award for Social Change, 1999,
Dalit Mitra Award, 1974: Government of Maharashtra
Rashtriya Bhushan (Pride of the Nation), 1978: F.I.E. (India) Foundation
Jamnalal Bajaj Award, 1979
N.D. Diwan Award, 1980: National Society for Equal Opportunities for the ‘Handicapped’ (NASEOH), Bombay
Ramshastri Award, 1983: Ramshastri Prabhune Foundation, Maharashtra, India
Indira Gandhi Memorial Award, 1985: Government of Madhya Pradesh, Raja Ram Mohan Roy Award, 1986: Delhi , Fr. Maschio Platinum Jubilee Award, 1987, Bombay
G.D. Birla International Award, 1988, For outstanding contribution to humanism
Mahdeo Balwant Natu Puraskar, 1991, Pune, Maharashtra
Adivasi Sewak Award, 1991, Government of Maharashtra, Kusumagraj Puraskar, 1991
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Dalit Mitra Award, 1992, Government of Maharashtra
Shri Nemichand Shrishrimal Award, 1994, Fr. Tong Memorial Award, 1995, Voluntary Health Association of India, Kushta Mitra Puraskar, 1995, Vidarbha Maharogi Sewa Mandal, Amravati, Maharashtra, Bhai Kanhaiya Award, 1997: Sri Guru Harkrishan Education Trust, Bhatinda, Punjab, Manav Sewa Award, 1997: Young Men’s Gandhian Association, Rajkot, Gujarat, Sarthi Award, 1997, Nagpur, Maharashtra, Mahatma Gandhi Charitable Trust Award, 1997, Nagpur, Maharashtra, Gruhini Sakhi Sachiv Puraskar, 1997, Gadima Pratishthan, Maharashtra, Kumar Gandharva Puraskar, 1998, Apang Mitra Puraskar, 1998, Helpers of the Handicapped, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, Bhagwan Mahaveer Award, 1998, Chennai, Diwaliben Mohanlal Mehta Award, 1998, Mumbai, Justice K. S. Hegde Award, 1998, Karnataka, Baya Karve Award, 1998, Pune, Maharashtra, Savitribai Phule Award, 1998, Government of Maharashtra, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Award, 1988: FICCI, for outstanding achievements in training and placement of disabled persons. Satpaul Mittal Award, 1998, Nehru Sidhant Kendra Trust, Ludhiana, Punjab
Adivasi Sevak Puraskar, 1998, Government of Maharashtra. Bharathvasa award,2008
D.Litt., 1980: Nagpur University, Nagpur, India
Krishi Ratna, 1981: Hon. Doctorate, PKV Agricultural University, Akola, Maharashtra, India
D.Litt., 1985-86: Pune University, Pune, India
Desikottam, 1988: Hon. Doctorate, Vishwabharati, Shanti Niketan, West Bengal, India.
Baba Amte's quotes:
"I don't want to be a great leader, I want to be a man who goes around with a little oil can and when he sees a breakdown offers his help. To me, the man who does that is greater than any holy man in saffron-colored robes. The mechanic with the oil can, that is my ideal in life."
"I am leaving to live along the Narmada. Narmada will linger on the lips of the nation as a symbol of all struggles against social injustice."
" One can live without fingers, but not self-respect."Idiot
It is very late for this as he passed away on Feb 9, 2008, but I thought better late then never, he has been in my mind for a very long time, during my late twenties, after 5 years in industry, I wanted to join some social organization like his but destiny wanted something else from me, so I moved away from that ideal.
It is an irony that like Mahatma Gandhi he was also overlooked by the Noble Prize Community, :-)) just a fact, nothing political here. I am just trying to pay my respects to the great soul who tried to make a difference in the lives of millions of people with simplicity and courage. And "Bharat Ratna" is also missing from his list of Awards. For the list of awardees go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bharat_Ratna
There is this documentary at this site, which shows in what conditions he did his work, http://www.babaamte.net/
This one is good, I picked it up from the Internet: Two great Hero's
Baba Amte's complete biography: http://mss.niya.org/people/baba_amte.php
To continue his beautiful work, interested people can donate at this website
Rs 25000 = 685$ CDN
Aum NamaH Shivaya!Sianala, Montreal, June 2008