Like Gandhiji many sensitive men and women felt that more than medicines, it was the solid rehabilitation of leprosy patients that would help them recover not only health but also dignity and self respect.
One such man, who decided to dedicate himself to this cause was Murlidhar Devidas Amte, better known as Baba Amte. Born on 26th December 1914 in Maharashtra, Amte grew up at a time when Indians were resisting British rule. He too joined the freedom struggle and went to jail for civil disobedience. He became a disciple of Gandhiji and decided to fight the fear of leprosy -it is for this reason that Gandhiji gave him the title of Abhaysadhak.
Baba Amte first took a course on care of leprosy patients. Then he decided to settle down in Chandrapur, Maharashtra. Here he acquired two hundred and fifty acres of land. His Ashram became a home for the destitute and homeless, many of whom were leprosy patients. Many of them, who had been cured, had lost their fingers, hands, toes or feet and could not go back to their earlier professions because they were disabled. Baba Amte helped each one of them to acquire skills, despite their handicap. These people under Baba Amte's guidance transformed this rocky and barren land into a model farm. This farm now produces vegetables and dairy products for neighboring villages and is economically self sufficient. But most important of all, it is a place which has become an 'Abode of Joy' or 'Anandvan'.
Baba Amte in 2005
|Born||(1914-12-26)26 December 1914|
Hinganghat, Wardha, British India (present-day Maharashtra, India)
|Died||9 February 2008(2008-02-09) (aged 93)|
Anandwan, Maharashtra, India
|Children||Dr. Vikas Amte|
Dr. Prakash Amte
|Awards||Padma Shri, 1971|
Ramon Magsaysay Award, 1985
Padma Vibhushan, 1986
United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights,1988
Gandhi Peace Prize, 1999
Templeton Award, 1990
|Website||No website at present|
Murlidhar Devidas Amte, popularly known as Baba Amte, (26 December 1914 – 9 February 2008) was an Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for his work for the rehabilitation and empoverment of poor people suffering from leprosy. He and his wife, Sadhna Amte, had started an organization for the leprosy patients Anandwan in 1950. This pioneering work was started as an arogya. [A] He has received many awards and prizes including Padma Vibhushan, the Gandhi Peace Prize, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Templeton Prize and the Jamnalal Bajaj Award.
Baba Amte was born to Mr. Devidas Amte and Mrs. Laxmibai Amte in the city of Hinganghat in Wardha District of Maharashtra on 26 December 1914. It was a wealthy family. His father was a British government officer with responsibilities for district administration and revenue collection. Murlidhar had acquired his nickname Baba in his childhood.
He came to be known as Baba not because "he was a saint or any such thing, but because his parents addressed him by that name."
He was among eight no 7 children of his father. As the eldest son of a wealthy land owner, Murlidhar had an idyllic childhood. By the time he was fourteen, he owned his own gun and hunted boar and deer. When he was old enough to drive, he was given a Singer Sports car with cushions covered with panther skin. He never appreciated the restrictions that prevented him from playing with the 'low-caste' servants' children. "There is a certain callousness in families like my family." he used to say. "They put up strong barriers so as not to see the misery in the world outside and I rebelled against it. "
Trained in law, he developed a successful legal practice at Wardha. He soon got involved in the Indian struggle for freedom from the British Raj, and started acting as a defence lawyer for leaders of the Indian freedom movement whom the British authorities had imprisoned in the 1942 Quit India movement. He spent some time at Sevagram ashram of Mahatma Gandhi and became a follower of Gandhism for the rest of his life. He followed Gandhism, including yarn spinning using a charkha and wearing khadi. When Gandhi got to know that he has saved a girl from British soldiers who were lewdly taunting her, Gandhi gave him the name – Abhay Sadhak (Fearless Seeker of Truth).
In those days, leprosy was associated with social stigma and the society disowned people suffering from leprosy. Amte strove to dispel the widespread belief that leprosy was highly contagious; he even allowed bacilli from a leper to be injected into him as part of an experiment aimed at proving that leprosy was not highly contagious.
Amte founded three [[ashram]]s for treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients, disabled people, and people from marginalised sections of the society in Maharashtra, India. On 15 August 1949, he started a hospital in Anandvan under a tree. In 1973, Amte founded the Lok Biradari Prakalp to work for the Madia Gond tribal people of Gadchiroli District.
Amte devoted his life to many other social causes, the most notably the Knit India movement for public awareness of the importance of ecological balance, wildlife preservation, and the Narmada Bachao Andolan. He Was Awarded With Padma Shri by government of India in year 1971.
Dedicated works of family members
Amte married Indu Ghuleshastri (later called Sadhanatai Amte). She participated in her husband's social work with equal dedication. Their two sons, Vikas Amte and Prakash Amte, and daughters-in-law, Mandakini and Bharati, are doctors. All four dedicated their lives to social work and causes similar to those of the senior Amte. Prakash and his wife Mandakini run a school and a hospital at Hemalkasa village in the underprivileged district of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra among the Madia Gond tribe, as well as an orphanage for injured wild animals, including a lion and some leopards. She left her governmental medical job and moved to Hemalkasa to start the projects after they married. Their two sons, Dr. Digant and Aniket also dedicated their lives to the same causes. In 2008, Prakash and Mandakini received the Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership.
Amte's elder son Vikas and his wife Bharati run the hospital at Anandwan and co-ordinate operations with satellite projects. Anandwan has a university, an orphanage, and schools for the blind and the deaf. The Anandwan ashram is self-sufficient and has over 5,000 residents and is recognised around the world. Amte later founded "Somnath" and "Ashokwan" ashrams for leprosy.
Amte followed Gandhi's way of life and led a spartan life. He wore khadi clothes made from the looms at Anandwan. He believed in Gandhi's concept of a self-sufficient village industry that empowers seemingly helpless people, and successfully brought his ideas into practice at Anandwan. Using non-violent means, he played an important role in the struggle for the independence of India. Amte also used Gandhi's principles to fight against corruption, mismanagement, and poor, shortsighted planning in the government. However, unlike Gandhi, Amte was an atheist.
Narmada Bachao Andolan with Medha Patkar
In 1990, Amte left Anandwan for a while to live along the Narmada River and join Medha Patkar's Narmada Bachao Andolan ("Save Narmada") movement, which fought against both unjust displacement of local inhabitants and damage to the environment due to the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river.
- Citation: "In electing MURLIDHAR DEVIDAS AMTE to receive the 1985 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his work-oriented rehabilitation of Indian leprosy patients and other handicapped outcasts."
- Padma Vibhushan, 1986
- United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights,1988
- Gandhi Peace Prize, 1999
- Rashtriya Bhushan, 1978: FIE Foundation Ichalkaranji (INDIA)
- Jamnalal Bajaj Award, 1979 for Constructive Work
- 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
- Templeton Prize, 1990 [Baba Amte and Charles Birch (Emeritus professor of University of Sydney)were jointly awarded the prize in 1990]
- Mahadeo 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 Foundation 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
- 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"
- Maharashtra Bhushan Award, 2004, Government of Maharashtra
- Bharathvasa award, 2008
- D.Litt., Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India
- 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
- Gandhi had conferred on Amte the title Abhayasadhak ("A Fearless Aspirant") for his fight against the British for India's freedom.
- "I don't want to be a great leader; I want to be a man who goes around with a little oilcan and when he sees a breakdown, offers his help. To me, the man who does that is greater than any holy man in saffron-coloured robes. The mechanic with the oilcan: that is my ideal in life." (Self-description given to British journalist Graham Turner)
- "I took up leprosy work not to help anyone, but to overcome that fear in my life. That it worked out good for others was a by-product. But the fact is I did it to overcome fear."
- ^Arogya is a Sanskrit word that means "overall well-being" and "health of mind, body and spirit." Generally speaking, it means living a healthy life without disease and having complete health in mind and body. Arogya can be used to refer to a wide range of topics, including yoga asana, Ayurveda, meditation, pranayama, japa mantra and much more.