Sunday, February 10, 2008

Eminent social worker Murlidhar Devidas Amte, popularly known as Baba Amte, died on Saturday at his Anandvan ashram in Warora. He was 94 years old.

The world-renowned leprosy worker had been suffering from blood cancer since the last six months and was being kept on life support system. He died at 4.15 am, his son Vikas said.

Baba Amte is survived by his wife Sadhana and sons Vikas and Prakash. His funeral will be held Sunday.

Baba had earlier expressed his desire that his body be buried instead of being cremated, Vikas said.

An ardent Gandhian, an impetuous social activist and a spirited environmental crusader, Murlidhar Devidas alias Baba Amte lent a new dimension to leprosy service by instilling in thousands of hapless leprosy patients a confidence to live a brave, productive life.

The founder of the world-renowned Anandvan leper-rehabilitation centre in Maharashtra's Chandrapur district who died at the same place in the wee hours of Saturday, Baba also brought to centre-stage the issue of colossal environmental destruction that mega developmental projects cause in their wake through his crusade against big dams.

Baba Amte with his wife Sadhana on their 60th wedding anniversary


His fervour for social and national integrity found its manifestation in the six-month long countrywide "Bharat-Jodo" (Knit-India) pilgrimage that he launched in December 1985 when the country was beset by militant agitations in Punjab, Assam and other parts.

Born on December 26, 1914 in Hinganghat village of Maharashtra's Wardha district, Devidas did his graduation in law from Nagpur university and started his legal practice in Warora only to give it up soon to join the freedom struggle answering the call of Mahatma Gandhi.


Though Baba Amte earned praise globally in his later life for his phenomenal service to leprosy patients that he started by setting up the Anandvan rehabilitation centre in Warora in 1951, he drew sneers and scorn when he took to cleaning gutters and nursing the wounds of hapless leprosy patients.


Recipient of several national and international awards like Padma Bhushan, Damien Dutton, Templeton, Right Livelihood and Magsaysay for his work in the field of leprosy service, Baba left the Anandvan Ashram to his elder son Vikas and set up an abode in Kasravad in Madhya Pradesh to lead his crusade against the gigantic Narmada dam project that threatened to devour vast stretches of thick forest land and displace thousands of villagers in early nineties.


While his wife Sadhana-tai stood by him all through his tumultuous life full of untold hardships, he inspired both his sons Vikas and Prakash along with their wives, respectively Bharati and Manda, all of whom are medical graduates, to take to the life of selfless service.

Baba also started tribal and leper-service projects at Somnath in Chandrapur district and Hemalkasa in Gadchiroli district while constantly developing the parent Anandvan rehabilitation centre where the third generation of Amtes is engaged fully.


Though unable to sit because of an impaired backbone for the last over four decades, Baba never ceased to work and remained mentally agile almost till the end of his life.

A connoisseur of western films - his fascination for Marlyn Monroe was well-known - a lover of books and a powerful speaker, Baba would recite long stanza of Marathi and English poems and recall names of hundreds of decades-old acquaintances and events when visitors came to meet him during his terminal illness.

Advised bed-rest in view of his multiple ailments including cardiac, Baba would insist on going for brisk walks in the Ashram premises. When fatigue overtook him during one such walk last month necessitating hospitalisation, he said, "The pumping machine in my chest, that is my physical heart, doesn't keep pace with me".

The man's never-say-die spirit remaining indomitable till the end of his life, Baba inspired his elder son Vikas, who has involved hundreds of leprosy patients in productive activities at Anandvan.

The light has gone out of our lives

Social activist Medha Patkar pays tribute to her hero

As a student, I first heard Baba speak at a college in Mumbai in 1970 and was immensely inspired by him. His simplicity and honesty and force of his conviction was truly admirable. I didn't get a chance to meet him again until 1988, when I went to Anandvan at Chandarpur, where he had founded a leper-rehabilitation centre. Back then, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) was just three years old. We were pitted against the brute force of the state government. Baba heard us patiently as we narrated to him the plight of adivasis who were about to lose their homes to the giant Narmada Sagar dam and had nowhere to go. The next year, in 1989, we organised a meet in Harsud, the township in Madhya Pradseh that would later become the nerve-centre of our protests against the Narmada Sagar dam. Around 250 organisations and prominent activists including Sunderlal Bahuguna had turned up at the meet. When Baba lent his hand to us and signed up for our battle, we really felt charged up.

All along, Baba never imposed on us his style of agitation. His only presence was reassuring. In 1990, we set up our camp at Chhoti Kasrawat, a village in MP, from where we would fight injustice that was being meted to poor adivasis in the name of giant dams.

Once again, Baba agreed to become our guiding star. We built a hut for him in the village where he lived for 10 years and continued giving us his guidance until the time the government evicted him on trumped-up allegations of encroachment. Even then, he was magnanimous enough to advise us that we should not be bogged down in petty quarrels with the government and that we should lose sight of our larger goals. With him gone, we feel the light has gone out of our lives. (As told to Vivek Sinha)

mumbai news

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Baba Amte dies at 94
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 9
Baba Amte, noted social activist and winner of the Magsaysay award, passed away this morning at his ashram at Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district. He was 94.

The end came at his Anandvan ashram in Chandrapur district where Baba Amte was based for the past several years after cutting down on his social engagements due to ill-health. Dr Vikas Amte, son of Baba Amte, said the noted social worker passed away in the morning at 4.15. Baba Amte has been suffering from cancer for some time.

The Anandvan ashram set up by Baba Amte is known for its rehabilitation programme for leprosy patients.

Born Murlidhar Devidas, Amte the Baba took up the mission of working with leprosy patients on the insistence of Mahatma Gandhi. Before cure for leprosy became widespread, Amte’s ashram played a yeoman role in providing refuge for leprosy patients.

Baba Amte is known for his bravery when he offered himself as a guinea pig for the testing of a vaccine for leprosy. He offered to have himself injected with the leprosy bacilli for the purpose of medical research.

In later years, during the height of terrorism in Punjab, Baba Amte hit the national headlines with his “Bharat Jodo Yatra” that took him across the length and breadth of the country. He was subsequently given the Magsaysay award for his work.

Born on December 26, 1914, in Maharashtra’s Wardha district, Amte originally trained as a lawyer and participated in the freedom struggle. Later on he came under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and spent time with the Father of the Nation.

Amte then gave up his law practice and took up the work of leprosy patients after doing a leprosy orientation course at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine.

The Anandwan ashram was started by Amte, his wife Sadhana and six leprosy patients.

His two sons Vikas and Prakash, both doctors, are now continuing the crusade against leprosy. Apart from the President and the Prime Minister, several other noted personalities have mourned the death of Baba Amte.

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday described Baba Amte as a saint and a true Gandhian who was committed to the welfare of the destitute.

“Baba Amte is a great example of a person who committed his life for the welfare of the destitute and needy,” the President said.

“It is with a deep sense of grief and loss that I heard about the demise of Baba Amte. A true Gandhian who worked hard to uphold the Gandhian values in their true spirit, Baba Amte became a legend in his own lifetime,” the Prime Minister said.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said the country would forever remember the work done by Baba Amte for leprosy patients and poor people.


Baba Amte was a saint of our times, says Patil
Tribune News Service

Receiving the Gandhi Peace Prize for 1999 from the then President K.R. Narayanan.
Receiving the Gandhi Peace Prize for 1999 from the then President K.R. Narayanan.

New Delhi, February 9
President Pratibha Patil, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today paid eloquent tributes to legendary social worker and Ramon Magsaysay award winner Baba Amte, describing him as saint of our times and an eminent Indian, who upheld the Gandhian philosophy by “wiping away tears from the eyes of the poor and the downtrodden”.

In the condolence message to his wife Sadhna Amte, Patil said, “Despite hailing from a well-to-do family Baba Amte dedicated his life to espouse the Gandhian ideals” and worked hard to wipe away tears from the eyes of the poor.

In his message, Ansari described Baba Amte as an “eminent public personality”, who worked tirelessly for the poor.

In his condolence message, the Prime Minister said, “It is with a deep sense of grief and loss that I heard about the demise of Baba Amte. A true Gandhian, who worked hard to uphold the Gandhian values in their true spirit, Baba Amte became a legend in his lifetime. The work he did for the uplift of leprosy-affected people at Anandvan alone puts him in a unique class of great national figures, who lived for the betterment of their fellow human beings.”

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said the Baba stood for Gandhian values throughout his life. “His contribution in the process of nation building particularly services to the leprosy patient will be remembered forever, he said.

Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has said Baba Amte was one of the noblest personalities that India have ever seen. She said he was a true Gandhian in every sense of the term and commanded the highest respect and admiration because of his complete integrity.