Fighting blood cancer for six months, 94-year-old Baba Amte was on life support before the end came at 4.14 am on Saturday at his Anandvan ashram for leprosy patients in Chandrapur district. The funeral will be held on Sunday.
Survived by wife Sadhana and two sons, Vikas and Prakash, both social workers, the Gandhian freedom fighter known as the messiah of lepers was also a crusader for the environment. He was the recipient of many national and international awards.
Elder son Vikas said the funeral would be held on Sunday at Anandvan, the ashram Amte founded near Warora, some 120 km from Nagpur, and where he spent a lifetime tending to the minds and bodies of leprosy patients. Nagpur is over 850 km from Mumbai.
Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar, Union Energy Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar will be attending the funeral.
"We will discuss among the members of our family whether he should be cremated or buried," Vikas said, adding that his father had earlier expressed a desire to be a buried. Vikas, who now looks after Anandvan, said the end came at 4.14 am.
Born into a wealthy Bramhin family, Amte was a practising lawyer before plunging into his crusade against leprosy. He was also vice-president of Warora municipality for a brief period.
Founded as a home for leprosy patients in 1951 by Amte, Anandvan was devoted to the care and rehabilitation of leprosy patients. Living among the leprosy afflicted, Amte and his wife not only took care of their medical and social needs but also helped them attain self-sufficiency by training them in various crafts.
Now, Anandvan has its own school, colleges, printing press, poultry and handloom cottage industry, among other things, all run by the leprosy patients.