Nagpur, Feb 9: ''Compassion has no utopia, party or ideology'' eminent social worker Baba Amte once said. A perfect embodiment of compassion, he breathed his last in the early hours today at ''Anandwan'' in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, after devoting his entire life to bring succour to the downtrodden, especially leprosy patients and tribals.
For the underprivileged lot, including lepers, tribals, orphans, the aged and neglected handicapped, Baba Amte was the last ray of hope. He took them into his fold and gave them a way of life spreading his motto 'Charity destroys, work builds'. It was this message that made him build Anandwan, the sprawling home for leprosy patients in 1949 on 50 acres of barren land with six leprosy patients, Rs 14 and a lame cow.
Today, Anandwan is a self-sufficient sprawling rehabilitation centre with over 3,000 inmates. Funded largely by donations, it has its own university, hospital, orphanage, technical units, dairy and farmlands. His relentless struggle against leprosy did not stop here, he even allowed his body to be used as an experiment when he allowed bacilli from a leprosy patient to be injected into him for tests.
In the Narmada bachao Andoloan, he camped in Nijibal, up stream the river, refusing to leave the place and was forcibly taken by police in a boat and confined to a local circuit house, for two days. Born on December 24, 1914, at Hinganghat in Wardha district, also in Vidarbha, Baba Amte hailing from a family of Brahmin 'jagirdars' left his lucrative law practice appalled by the poverty in his family estate.
For a man who once speeded in fancy cars, wrote film reviews for the film-goers, corresponded with Hollywood icons Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer, Baba Amte came a long way since that rainy night in Warora. The sight of Tulshiram, a maggot-eaten leper, changed his life forever.
He relinquished his robes and began working with sweepers and carriers of night soil. He married Sadhana Guleshastri in 1946.
She has been by Mr Amte's side through all his campaigns.
After marriage, Baba Amte started working for those struck by leprosy outside Warora. He set up 11 clinics around Warora before starting Anandwan.
Baba Amte also launched two Bharat Jodo (Knit India) Movements, the first from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in 1985 and the second from Assam to Gujarat in 1988. His aim was to establish peace and generate environmental awareness. The proceeds of the several awards won by him and his family, amounting to nearly Rs 15 million have been given to Anandwan.