Baba Amte born on December 26, 1914, Maharashtra district, British India—died February 9, 2008, Anandvan, Maharashtra, India, a well known Indian lawyer and social activist who devoted his life to India’s lower-caste Dalits (officially called Scheduled Castes; formerly called “untouchables”) and especially to the care of those individuals who suffered from leprosy (Hansen’s disease).
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.
When he first witnessed the misery and ostracization faced by leprosy patients, his conscience was shaken and he was determined to do something to empower these people. He founded several ashrams and hospitals for these patients.
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. He enjoyed an idyllic childhood and even possessed his own gun by the time he was a teenager! He loved hunting and watching movies.
In fact, he even wrote reviews for a film magazine and communicated with actresses like Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer. As a freedom fighter he became acquainted with Mahatma Gandhi and spent some time at the seva gram ashram.
Impressed by Gandhi’s principles he became his follower and started wearing khadi. Wanting to do something to not just help leprosy patients, but to enable them to live a life of self-respect and dignity, he founded the Anandwan Ashram in 1948.
The life history of Murlidhar Devidas Amte is full of touching incidents. He was so great a person that he dedicated his entire life to the care and rehabilitation of leprosy patients. Often Baba Amte allowed his body to be used for carrying out experiments to grow leprosy germs.
His social project at Anandwan adjacent to Nagpur in the Indian state of Maharashtra is world renowned because it has done a lot to dismiss injustices against leprosy patients. Baba Amte was honored with numerous national and international awards for his selfless service to the society his entire life.
The Government of India presented him with the Padma Shree Award in the year 1971 and then the Padma Vibhushan in the year 1986. The Welfare of the Disabled award was presented to him in the year 1986 and Gandhi Peace Prize in 1999.
With a view to bring about national integration and check communal violence, Baba Amte took up the Bharat Jodo Yatr a 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 was honoured with several national and international awards including the Padma Shree (1971), Jamnalal Bajaj Award (1979), Magsaysay Award (1985), Welfare of the disabled award (1986), Padma Vibhushan (1986), G.D. Birla International Award (1988) and the Gandhi Peace Prize (2000) for his selfless service to the deprived segments of the society.