Shortly before we went to press, we received news of the passing of Baba Amte. After Mahatma Gandhi himself, there can have been few more remarkable Indians who so devoted their lives to the cause of their nation and to the care of people affected by leprosy. As we related in a past issue of this publication, Amte was born into a wealthy family, but ultimately chose to lead a very different life to the one that his privileged upbringing might otherwise have afforded him.
The ashram for people affected by leprosy that he founded on barren land in 1951 eventually grew to be a model community that provided work and a sense of self-worth to the thousands who came to live there. Among those who made the journey to see for themselves the miracle that Amte had wrought was Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa. When Sasakawa visited Anandwan last year, Amte was already in his 90s, and only able to receive visitors while lying on his back as a result of a long-standing spinal injury.
Though brief, it was a memorable encounter that Sasakawa has never forgotten. "It was an honor and a privilege to meet with Baba Amte and I shall always remember the time we spent together," he recalls. "As one who works for the cause of people affected by leprosy, I have the highest regard for what Amte achieved during his remarkable life, and was truly inspired by his deeds. India has lost an outstanding citizen, but Baba Amte's legacy will live forever."