Full Name: Murlidhar Devidas Amte
Born: December 26, 1914 (in the city of Hinganghat in Wardha District of Maharashtra).
Died :-9 February 2008 (aged 93) Anandwan, Maharashtra, India
Baba Amate came from a wealthy family. His father Mr. Devilal singh was a British government official with responsibilities for district administration and revenue collection. Murlidhar got his nickname ‘baba’ from his parents. As the eldest son of a wealthy landowner, he enjoyed an idyllic childhood and a luxurious life as a youngster.
Baba Amte got the legal education and set up a successful law practice. 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.
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. 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 outcast.
He wanted not just to help leprosy patients, but to enable them to live a life of self-respect and dignity, so he founded the Anandwan Ashram in 1948. Later, Anandwan was registered in 1951 and more land was given by the government. Anandwan (Forest of Joy) is located near Warora in Chandrapur district in the state of Maharashtra. The project is run by a nonprofit organisation ‘Maharogi Sewa Samiti’ which was also founded by Baba Amte in 1949.
In 1973, Amte founded the Lok Biradari Prakalp at Hemalkasa in Gadchiroli District to work for the Madia Gond tribal people.
Other two projects launched, one by Baba Amte at Somnath (located in the forests of Tadoba, Chandrapur) in 1967 and other by Dr. Vikas Amte at Mulgavan (Yavatmal district). These both projects works as the Center for Social Action.
Baba Amte’s motto was “Work Builds; Charity Destroys” and thus he encouraged all the inmates of Anandwan to live with self respect and dignity and contribute towards the community life by doing whatever work they can do.
During the 1990s he joined Medha Patkar in the Narmada Bachao Andolan- a social movement fought against displacement of local inhabitants and damage to the environment on account of the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river.
Baba pitched the idea for a Bharat Jodo or Knit India campaign at in the summer of 1985 with the aim ‘to promote peaceful co-existence among people and nature’. He organized two Bharat Jodo campaigns- one from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in 1985 and the other from Assam to Gujarat in 1988.
From Government of India-
- Padma Shri, 1971
- Ramon Magsaysay Award, 1985
- Padma Vibhushan, 1986
- United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights,1988
- Gandhi Peace Prize, 1999
From Government of Maharashtra-
- Adivasi Sewak Award, 1991.
- Kusumagraj Puraskar, 1991.
- Savitribai Phule Award, 1998.
- Maharashtra Bhushan Award, 2004.
- D.Litt. from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai; Nagpur University (in 1980) and Pune University in 1985-86.
- Krishi Ratna, 1981: Hon. Doctorate, PKV Agricultural University, Akola, Maharashtra, India
- Desikottama, 1988: Hon. Doctorate, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal, India
- Mahatma Gandhi gave him the title Abhaya Sadhak (“A Fearless Aspirant”) for his fight against the British for India’s freedom.