Friday, December 26, 2014

Baba Amte - Biography


Murlidhar Devidas Amte popularly known as Baba Amte was born to Mr. Devilal singh and Mrs. Laxmibai Amte in the city of Hinganghat in Wardha District of Maharashtra on 26 December 1914.. His father was a British government official with responsibilities for district administration and revenue collection and he also had hundreds of acres of land.  Murlidhar had acquired his nickname Baba in his childhood as his parents addressed him with that word.

He was educated as a lawyer and he developed a successful legal practice at Wardha. Like many others of that period, he also got involved in the Indian struggle for freedom from the British, and became  a defence lawyer for leaders of the Indian freedom movement 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 Gandhian directions including yarn spinning using a charkha and wearing khadi.

In those days, leprosy was associated with social stigma and the society disowned people suffering from leprosy. Amte decided to work for the treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients as an important social service activity. Amte founded three ashrams 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 under a tree.  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 and established an Ashram. It  became a home for the destitute and homeless, many of whom were leprosy patients. Many of them, had been cured of leprosy but  had lost their fingers , hands, toes or feet and could not go back to their professions because they were disabled. Baba Amte helped each one of them to acquire skills, despite their handicap. Under Baba Amte's guidance they worked and transformed the rocky and barren land into a model farm.  This farm  produced vegetables and dairy products for neighbouring villages and is economically self sufficient. But most important of all, it is a place which has become an 'Abode of Joy' or 'Anandvan'.

 In 1973, Amte founded the Lok Biradari Prakalp to work for the Madia Gond tribal people of Gadchiroli District.

He breathed his last on 9 February 2008.

Baba Amte will also be remembered for his many peace and justice marches across India, his solidarity with the aborigine tribes, and his opposition to big dams like the Sardar Sarovar project on Narmada river.

Amte was awarded the UN Human Rights Prize, the Magsaysay award, the Templeton Prize, the Gandhi Peace Prize, and several other humanitarian and environmental prizes.

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