Baba Amte


Baba Amte

Baba Amte ( _mr. बाबा आमटे) (December 26, 1914 - February 9, 2008), born Murlidhar Devidas Amte was a respected Indian social activist. He was the founder of several ashrams (communities) for treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients, the disabled, and other people from marginalized sections of society. Anandwan, meaning "Forest of Joy" or "Garden of Joy", located in the remote and economically less privileged district of Chandrapur, Maharashtra is the most well-known of such ashrams and was Baba Amte's home.

Baba Amte also devoted his life to many other social causes, the most notable of which were environmental awareness, wildlife preservation and the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Early life and family

Amte was born in Hinganghat located in Wardha District of Maharashtra state of India in a wealthy family of Brahmin jagirdars. He was called as "baba" (an affectionate title in Marathi, which can also be interpreted as a title of respect) not because it was conferred upon him but since it was a nickname given to him by his parents. [ [http://www.rediff.com/freedom/amte3.htm Rediff On The NeT, Freedom: An interview with Baba Amte ] ] . 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.

In 1946, Baba got married to Sadhana Guleshastri, who was later referred to by community members as Sadhana"tai" or simply "Tai" ("elder sister" in Marathi). 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. [ http://mss.niya.org/people/amte.php Maharogi Sewa Samiti]

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 Manda"tai") 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. [ http://www.ashanet.org/nycnj/?id=79 [ [http://www.mastek.com/content/mastekpapers/23June2006.asp Mastek Making Headlines ] ] . In 2008, Dr. Prakash Amte and his wife Dr. Mandakini Amte, were jointly given the Magsaysay Award for 'Community Leadership' [http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Citation/CitationAmtes.html Citation] from the [http://www.rmaf.org.ph/index.php website of Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation] ] .

Anandwan and the fight against leprosy

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. [ [http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/feb/09amte2.htm?zcc=rl Amte was the last follower of Mahatma Gandhi ] ] Anandwan was registered in 1951 and received a state land grant of convert|250|acre|km2. 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. [ [http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/feb/09amte2.htm?zcc=rl Amte was the last follower of Mahatma Gandhi ] ]

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. Baba Amte was given the Damien-Dutton award from the Damien-Dutton Leprosy Society for his work in the year 1983.

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. [ [http://www.rediff.com/freedom/amte3.htm Rediff On The NeT, Freedom: An interview with Baba Amte ] ]

Baba Amte and Gandhism

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 the Narmada Bachao Andolan that Gandhi used against the British Raj. [ [http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/feb/09amte4.htm Baba Amte: The Gandhi after that Gandhi] ]

In spite of his emulation of Gandhi's social and political work, Baba Amte was himself entirely non-religious, and was an atheist. [ [http://www.economist.com/obituary/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10757984 Baba Amte Obituary: The Economist, February 28, 2008] ]

Narmada Bachao Andolan

In 1990, Baba Amte left Anandwan to live along the Narmada river and to join Medha Patkar's "Narmada Bachao Andolan" (Save Narmada Movement), which fights against the unjust displacement of local inhabitants and damage to the environment on account of the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river. Narmada Bachao Andolan, together with Patkar and Baba Amte as its spokespersons, was the 1991 recipient of the Right Livelihood Award [ [http://www.rightlivelihood.org/narmada.html Right Livelihood Award: 1991 - Medha Patkar & Baba Amte / Narmada Bachao Andolan] ]

Death

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 condition. In 2007, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Baba Amte died in Anandwan on February 9, 2008 at 4.15 am. 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". [ [http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=19218&article=His+Holiness+the+Dalai+Lama+mourns+the+demise+of+Baba+Amte His Holiness the Dalai Lama mourns the demise of Baba Amte] ]

Honours and awards

Baba Amte won numerous awards during his life, most notably the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1985. He was chosen for his work-oriented rehabilitation of Indian leprosy patients and other handicapped outcasts. [ [http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/BiographyAmteMur.htm 1985 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Public Service - Murlidhar Devidas Amte] ] In 1999, he was awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize for his exemplary work for treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients and his concept of the "Shramik Vidyapeeth" (Workers' University) where patients and volunteers work together.

All monetary proceeds from his awards were used for his social projects [ [http://www.rediff.com/freedom/amte3.htm The Miracle Worker] ]

International awards

* Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, Philippines, 1985
* Damien-Dutton Award, USA, 1983: Highest international award in the field of leprosy
* United Nations Human Rights Prize, 1988: For outstanding achievement in the field of human rights (to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
* International Giraffe Award, USA, 1989
* The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, USA, 1990 [ [http://www.templetonprize.org/bios_recent.html Baba Amte (1990; awarded jointly)] "Templeton Prize".]

* Global 500, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 1991: The Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement
* The Right Livelihood Award, Sweden, 1991 (often described as the "alternative Nobel prize", ["Alternative Nobel Prize" awarded in Sweden. 8 December 2006. [http://www.newsahead.com/PREVIEW/alternative_Nobel_award_Dec_06.htm "NewsAhead World News Forecast" story] ] [ [http://in.news.yahoo.com/ani/20080209/r_t_ani_nl_general/tnl-president-pratibha-patil-manmohan-si-99cbaa1.html President Pratibha Patil, Manmohan Singh condole Baba Amte's death] - Yahoo! India News] jointly awarded to Baba Amte and Medha Patkar for the Narmada Bachao Andolan):"...for their inspired opposition to the disastrous Narmada Valley dams project and their promotion of alternatives designed to benefit the poor and the environment"

Awarded by the Government of India

* Padma Shree, 1971 [ [http://mha.nic.in/Padma/PadmaAwardsDir(1954-2007).pdf Microsoft Word - year-wise 07.rtf ] ]
* Padma Vibhushan, 1986
* Welfare of the Disabled Award, 1986
* Gandhi Peace Prize, 1999
* Dr. Ambedkar International Award for Social Change, 1999: In recognition of outstanding work done in pursuing the cause of the exploited and the underprivileged, reconciling differences among conflicting social groups and contributing significantly to social change

Other awards

* 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 for outstanding social service
* 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

Honorary distinctions

* 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
* Desikottama, 1988: Hon. Doctorate, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal, India

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 oilcan, that is my ideal in life." [ [http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/BiographyAmteMur.htm 1985 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Public Service - Murlidhar Devidas Amte ] ] - self description given to British journalist Graham Turner.

"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." - about going to the Narmada valley to support the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

" One can live without fingers, but not self-respect."

References

External links

* [http://mss.niya.org/people/amte.php#baba Baba Amte & Sadhnatai Amte]
* [http://mss.niya.org/ Maharogi Sewa Samiti]
* [http://baba.niya.org/ Wisdom Song, life of Baba Amte]
* [http://www.takeheartindia.org/baba_quotes.htm Inspiring Quotes of Baba Amte]
* [http://samiranghosh.blogspot.com/2005/08/baba-amte-every-once-in-blue-moon-is.html Baba Amte]
* [http://www.takeheartindia.org/mss.htm Take Heart India]
* [http://www.hvk.org/hvk/articles/1296/0056.html Throwing away the crutches]
* [http://www.indianexpress.com/res/web/pIe/ie/daily/19980118/01850494.html Love in the time of want]
* [http://www.rediff.com/freedom/amte1.htm After 50 years what democracy is this?]
* [http://www.anandwangreetings.com/ Handcrafted greeting cards made by residents of Anandwan]


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