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Magsaysay award for Amte couple

Philanthropist doctor couple Prakash and Mandakini Amte were declared winners of the Ramon Magsaysay award for their contributions to improving the lives of tribals, reports Pradip Kumar Maitra.

world Updated: Aug 01, 2008 00:15 IST
Pradip Kumar Maitra

Well known philanthropist doctor couple Mandakini and Prakash Amte were declared recipients of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award for their contribution towards tribal medical care and education.

It was a time to cheer for the inmates of Baba Amte ashram at Hemalkasa, a sleepy outpost near Bhamragarh in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, when the news arrived. Prakash’s father, social worker Baba Amte too was a recipient of the award in 1985.

They are being recognised for “enhancing the capacity of the Madia Gonds (tribals) to adapt positively in today’s India, through healing and teaching and other compassionate interventions”.

The couple has been running a school, a hostel and a hospital at Hemalkasa village since 1973. The district falls under the backward Vidarbha region. Prakash’s father had spent much of his life in the rehabilitation and care of leprosy patients at his Anandwan ashram in one of the poorest tribal areas in Maharashtra.

Prakash and his wife, Mandakini are among the seven individuals who were selected for the award this year, regarded as Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel prize.

“It was unexpected for us,” Prakash said when contacted by HT. “Whatever I am today, it is because of the blessing of my parents — Baba Amte, Sadhanatai and the team who are working selflessly along with us for the tribals,” he said and added he was humbled by the recognition bestowed upon him and his wife.

“Baba would have been delighted today if he was alive,” Prakash added. Baba Amte died in February this year. He had received the Magsaysay award for his outstanding public service.

Prakash married Mandakini, a fellow doctor, in 1972, and the next year they shifted to Hemalkasa, about 400km from Nagpur, that was set up by Amte for the upliftment of tribals of Gond.

“We both have always shared joys and sorrows together and without Manda’s help, our mission to serve the real have-nots of the state was not possible,” Prakash said.

Prakash’s son Digant and his daughter-in-in law Anagha, both doctors, also serving in the hospital.

The 50-bed hospital, a high school and a junior college now caters to around 1,000 villages in the area, besides tribals of neighbourng Bastar of Chhattisgarh and East Godavari of Andhra Pradesh. The region is known to be Naxalite-prone and the Amte couple was often accused by the police for treating injured Maoists in their hospital.

Thursday was a busy day for the couple. Wishes and compliments came from different corners of the country, including from Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and hisdeputy R.R. Patil.