Murlidhar Devidas Amte, popularly known as Baba Amte was an Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for his work for the rehabilitation and empowerment of poor people suffering from leprosy.
Baba Amte was born to Mr. Devidas Amte and Mrs. Laxmibai Amte in the city of Hinganghatin 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.
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 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 " he use to say. "They put up strong barriers so as not to see the misery in the world outside and I rebelled against it. "
After obtaining a degree in Law in 1936, he started practicing as an advocate in Warora. Soon after, deeply moved by the poverty and degradation of the peasantry, he began organizing farmers’ cooperatives. He worked as a volunteer at sites affected by disaster as the Quetta earthquake of 1935 and Bengal famine in early 1940s. Influenced by Rabindranath Tagoreand Mahatma Gandhi, he took an active part in the freedom struggle and was sentenced for organizing the lawyers to represent the imprisoned nationalist leaders.
Baba Amte was also influenced by Sane Guruji, a social reformer from Maharashtra. He renounced his property and gave up the legal practice to set up a Shram Ashram ( Hermitage of Labour) with the support of his wife, Sadhana. He worked wholeheartedly to improve the abysmal social and economic conditions of the social outcastes. It was the sight of a person in advanced stages of leprosy which proved to be the turning point in his life and influenced him to take the pledge to work for the care and rehabilitation of leprosy patients.
In 1949, he attended a six month course on leprosy at the CalcuttaSchool of Tropical Medicine. He started treating leprosy patients in 60 villages around Warora by moving across villages on foot. In 1949, Baba Amte founded the Maharogi Sewa Samiti, a registered charity, which remained a medium for his activities.
He set up a commune for leprosy patients, along with his wife, two sons, and six leprosy patients, called the Anandwan or ‘"Forest of Joy" Anandwan soon became the nerve centre of Baba Amte’s relentless crusade, helping leprosy patients become self-confident persons capable of cooperative and creative leadership. Its inhabitants cultivated the land to become self sufficient, and the establishment grew to include a clinic with two hospital wards, primary school for visually impaired, school for hearing and speech impaired, a college of agriculture, and an orphanage.Baba Amte also worked for improving the health of the tribals. With a view to bring about national integration and check communal violence. Baba Amte undertook the Bharat Jodo Yatra in December, 1985 from Kanyakumari to Jammu and covered different states reiterating his plea for checking religious fundamentalism, linguistic and territorial bickering and keeping the country above individuals. He also protested against the displacement of people affected by building of the dam across the river Narmada.
Baba Amte was conferred the Padma Shree in 1971,
Padma Vibhushan, and the Welfare of the Disabled award in 1986,
Gandhi Peace Prize in 1999.
Baba Amte also received the Damien–Dutton Award in 1983
Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1985.
Baba Amte worked incessantly for welfare of the society till his death on 9th February, 2008.
Department of Post also honoured Baba Amte with postage stamps
Issued Date: 30.12.2014
Denomination: 500 Paisa