New Delhi, Feb 9 : President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh today expressed their condolences on the passing away of the noted Gandhian leader, Baba Amte.
In his condolence message, President Patil said, "Baba Amte is a great example of a person who committed his life for the welfare of the destitute and needy."
The Prime Minister in his condolence message described Amte as a "legend", and said the Gandhi Peace Prize winner's work in the upliftment of leprosy patients puts him in a "unique class of great national figures".
"It is with a deep sense of grief and loss that I heard the demise of Baba Amte. A true Gandhian who worked hard to uphold Gandhian values in their true spirit, Baba Amte became a legend in his own lifetime," he said.
He added Amte's efforts to unite people on national and Gandhian values and to eliminate all forms of discrimination and bias makes him a "saint of our times".
Murlidhar Devidas Amte, popularly known as Baba Amte, passed away at his 'Anandvan' ashram in Maharashtra's Chandrapur District at 4:15 a.m. He was 94.
The funeral will take place on Sunday.
According to sources, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and host of ministers and other social activists including Medha Patkar will attend the funeral.
He is survived by two sons.
Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, Baba Amte devoted his life to the care and rehabilitation of leprosy patients.
His community development project at 'Anandvan' (Forest of Bliss) is recognised around the world and has done much to dispel prejudice against leprosy victims.
Baba Amte was also deeply engaged in environmental issues and fought for the rights of those displaced on account of big projects like the Sardar Sarovar andndira Sagar dams over the Narmada River.
He also launched the 'Bharat Jodo' - Unite India -- movement from Kanyakumari to Kashmir in 1985 and Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh in 1988, with the mission of establishing peace and raising environmental consciousness.
Trained in law, he started practice at Warora, but moved by the poverty he saw around him, he decided to dedicate himself to social justice.
Baba Amte was born in Hinganghat in Wardha District on December 26, 1914 into a rich family. He participated in the Indian freedom struggle against the British empire.
Baba Amte was honoured with the Padma Shree in 1971. Later in 1986, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan.
He was also conferred upon by the Damien-Dutton Award, the highest international award in the field of leprosy in 1983.
His deep humanism and service to the most marginalized sections, the destitutes and the needy, won him a host of awards including the UN Human Rights Award (1988), the Templeton Prize, USA (1990), Rashtriya Bhushan Award, Global 500 Award for UN Environment Program (1991), the Right Livelihood Award from Sweden (1991) considered as the alternative Nobel Peace prize, Gandhi Peace Prize (1999) for most significant contribution to social change through Gandhian means and the Dr Ambedkar award for ushering in social change and uplift of the Dalits.
Baba Amte was also honoured with Jamnalal Bajaj Award in 1979.