Renowned social worker Murlidhar Devidas Amte alias Baba Amte passed away at 4.15am on February 9, 2008. He was 94 and suffering from cancer since long. He took his last breath at his ‘Anandvan’ ashram on Saturday in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. Baba Amte, a trained lawyer by profession, dedicated his entire life to the care and rehabilitation of leprosy patients. He was survived by his two sons.
He always talked about peace and justice and showed solidarity with tribals living live in isolation in the society. He was a big critic of making of the big dams like the Sardar Sarovar dam causing displacement of thousands of poor villagers and tribal population.
He was born into a wealthy Brahmin family in Hinganghat area of Wardha district of Maharashtra on December 26, 1914. He was appalled by the poverty in his family estate in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. He relinquished his robes and began working with sweepers and carriers of night soil. He was a lawyer by profession but joined the freedom struggle movements later. His wife Sadhanatai Amte said: He came to be known as Baba not because he is a saint or any such thing, but because his parents addressed him by that name.
Baba Amte had even allowed his body to be used for experiments related with the research of medicines for caring leprosy disease. He also started the community development project at Anandvan aiming to chase away prejudice among common people against leprosy victims.
He also launched the ‘Bharat jodo’ movement in 1985 from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to Arunahcal Pradesh in 1988 and raised the environmental consciousness among country’s citizens. In 1990, he became associated with the battle for the people affected by the construction of dam on the river Narmada, ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’.
Baba has been honored with several international and national awards for his work done for the cause of social justice.
# Padmashree in 1971
# Rashtra Bhushan or ‘Pride of the nation’ in 1978
# Jamnalal Bajaj Award in 1979
# Damien-Dutton Award in 1983 (the highest international award in the field of leprosy)
# Magsaysay Award in 1985
# Indira Gandhi Memorial Award by the Madhya Pradesh government for his exceptional steadfastness towards social service in 1985
# Padma Vibhushan in 1986
# Raja Ram Mohan Roy Award in 1986
# UN Human Rights Award for outstanding contribution in the field of human rights in 1988
# G D Birla International Award in 1988 for his contribution to humanism
# Templeton Prize, UK in 1990
# International Giraffe Award, USA in 1990
# Global 500 award of UN environment program for outstanding contributions towards environment in 1991
# Right Livelihood Award, Sweden in 1992 (also called as ‘Alternate Noble Prize for Environment’)
# International Gandhi Peace Prize in 1999
# Dr. Ambedkar International Award, in 1999
The government of India never considered to honor him with the highest civilian award – ‘Bharat Ratna’.