Social activist Dr Sheetal Amte-Karajgi, granddaughter of Baba Amte, dies by suicide in Chandrapur
Social activist Dr Sheetal Amte-Karajgi, 42, granddaughter of legendary social activist Baba Amte, died allegedly by suicide at her Anandwan residence in Chandrapur district, around 125km from Nagpur, on Monday.
A medical doctor specialised in disabilities, Amte-Karajgi was the chief executive officer and board member of one of India’s leading non-profit groups, Maharogi Sewa Samiti, Warora.
The samiti, founded by Baba Amte, has created livelihood opportunities for several marginalised people, especially for those afflicted with leprosy, orthopedically handicapped, vision and hearing-impaired individuals and tribal populace since 1949.
“We are in deep shock. There was a disagreement among trustees of Anandwan ashram. But we had come up with a solution, which was also agreed upon by Sheetal. Her taking the extreme step is unfortunate,” said Magsaysay award winner and Amte-Karajgi’s uncle, Dr Prakash Amte.
Amte-Karajgi had recently raised some questions about the functioning of Anandwan ashram and levelled allegations about the certain “irregularities” in Maharogi Sewa Samiti, controlled mostly by her family members, particularly her father, Dr Vikas Amte, and Dr Prakash Amte. She had uploaded a video on social media last week talking about the “irregularities”, but removed it within two hours.
A few days ago, the samiti’s trustees removed her from the board. According to people in the know, ashram members were opposed to Amte-Karajgi’s and her husband’s, Gautam Karajgi, an engineer and management expert, ideas of “bringing in a corporate culture” into Anandwan ashram. Last week, trustees of Maharogi Sewa Samiti — Dr Vikas Amte, Dr Prakash Amte (both sons of Baba Amte, a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award and Padma Vibhushan, who died in 2008) and their wives, Dr Bharati Amte and Dr Mandakini Amte — issued a clarification, saying all allegations levelled by Amte-Karajgi were baseless and misleading. “We are committed to working in strict adherence to the innate values and ethics laid down with which the institution was formed. We abide by legal and moral values through transparency, while carrying forward the works of the ashram,” they said, appealing to people not to believe in “misleading propaganda”. They also claimed that Amte-Karajgi was “mentally stressed and frustrated”.
According to sources, on Monday, the doctor was rushed to a civil hospital at Warora, where she was declared dead on arrival. “We have sealed the house and sent the body to Chandrapur Civil Hospital for post-mortem,” said Nilesh Pande, sub-divisional police officer, Warora.
Amte-Karajgi was fairly active on social media and had tweeted till around eight hours before her death. In her last tweet, Amte-Karajgi had posted an abstract painting on canvas, titled, “War and Peace”.
Amte-Karajgi was also the founder of “Mashaal” and “Chirag”, the exclusive leadership training programme for motivating medical professionals across India. She recently set up a centre called “Nijbal”, which worked towards prevention of disabilities; primary, secondary and tertiary education; vocational training; employment support; various types of counselling; sports, medical and physical rehabilitation services. She was also engaged in an ambitious project of making Anandwan a one-of-its-kind “smart village” in the country, by making it technologically efficient, economically productive and environmentally sensitive. In January 2016, she was selected by the World Economic Forum as “Young Global Leader 2016” and later, was selected as a member of the World Economic Forum Expert Network on Humanitarian Response.