Who is Baba Amte?
Murlidhar Devidas Amte, better known as Baba Amte was an Indian social worker. Activist who worked for the empowerment of poor suffering from leprosy. He is born in a rich family but Amte dedicated his life to serve the downtrodden people of the society. He was influenced by the words and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and left his successful law practice to join India’s struggle for independence. Baba Amte dedicated his life to serving humanity and he moved forward with the motto “Work Builds; Charity Destroys”. Baba Amte formed Anandwan (Forest of Joy), to serve the people suffering from leprosy. He was also associated with other raging social and environmental issues like the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). For his humanitarian work, he received a number of prestigious awards including the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1985,also got the Dr. Ambedkar International Award, the Gandhi Peace Prize,the Templeton Prize and the Jamnalal Bajaj Award.
He was among eight 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.”
In 1946, Baba Amte married Sadhana Guleshastri. She was also a believer of humanity and always supported Baba Amte in his social work. She was popularly known as Sadhnatai. ‘Tai’ in Marathi language means “elder sister”. The couple had two sons, Prakash and Vikas, both of whom were doctors and followed in their father’s footsteps of keeping up with his altruistic vision of helping the poor.
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 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.