Neelima Singh :
NEW DELHI : A Gandhian in spirit and every essence who followed Gandhi’s teaching in every walk of life, lived a very austere life, a wildlife preservation advocate, an environmental conservationist, a firm believer in the virtue of hard work, a social worker and a lawyer who encouraged the leprosy patients to be self-sufficient and worked for their rehabilitation.
Baba Amte was an Indian social worker who dedicated his life to the noble cause of social service, particularly to make life better for the sufferers of leprosy. A true Gandhian follower in sprit and essence and who took part in Quit India Movement and went jail for that too. Born into a wealthy family, he lived an enviable life. As a youngster he owned a gun and loved hunting! An avid movie fan, he corresponded with the likes of Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. But as he matured with age he realized that there was too much injustice and suffering around him. This made him ditch his luxurious life and dedicate himself to the cause of betterment of the world. Google honours him on his 104th birthday by canvassing his life of social work and environmental vocalist through the doodle.
Who was Baba Amte: Few facts to know
Born as Muralidhar Amte to Devidas Amte and his wife Laxmibai in Wardha district. His father was a British government official and his family was very wealthy and prosperous. “Baba” was his childhood nickname. After receiving his formal education, he went for legal education and set up a successful law practice in Wardha. At that time, the Indian Nationalist movement was in full swing and he too joined the freedom struggle. He became a defense lawyer for the freedom fighters who were imprisoned by the British authorities during the 1942 Quit India Movement. It was around this period that he became aware of the miseries leprosy patients were subjected too. People believed that leprosy was contagious and thus the patients were treated as outcasts and ostracized. He wanted to not just help leprosy patients, but to enable them to live a life of self-respect and dignity and for this he founded the Anandwan Ashram in 1948.
Anandwan is a community rehabilitation centre for leprosy patients where they learn how to be self-sufficient through hard work. The ashram is equipped with schools, hospitals and community centers for recreation. He also established Gokul and Uttarayan which are homes for children and senior citizens respectively. In Gokul, 60 children who are either orphan or children of leprosy patients are provided food, accommodation, clothes and other basic facilities.
He created Sukh Sadan meaning “The House of Happiness” for rehabilitated leprosy patients where people form “social family” wherein two couples commit to care for an elderly couple. The elderly couple also helps by taking care of the children of the younger couple and by providing them advice.
Baba Amte, a great believer in national unity, organized two Bharat Jodo—Knit India Movements—one from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in 1985 and the other from Assam to Gujarat in 1988. He aimed to promote peaceful co-existence among people and nature.
During the 1990s he joined Medha Patkar in the Narmada Bachao Andolan which was a social movement undertaken to stop the building of Sardar Sarovar Dam across the Narmada river.
Awards & Achievements
He was given the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1985 in recognition of his selfless service to the people. He was also honoured with Gandhi Peace Prize. He received a number of awards from the Government of India, the highest of them being the Padma Vibhushan in 1986. He used to give all the proceeds from his awards to Anandwan.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1946 he got married to Sadhna. The couple had two sons. His two sons and their wives are all medical doctors and they too have dedicated their lives to social service taking forward the legacy of Baba Amte. He lived a long life spent mostly in making lives better for the diseased and downtrodden. He died in 2008 at the age of 94.