Dr. Prakash and Dr. Mrs. Mandakini Amte

International Awards

Hamdan Award for Volunteers in Humanitarian Medical Services
2009-2010
Personal Details/Academic Background
Dr.Prakash Amte and his wife, Dr.Mandakini, are professional doctors. Dr.Prakash is a son of Murlidhar Devidas, popularly known as Baba Amte, one of India’s most-revered social reformers. Dr. Mandakini, who was doing her post graduation in anesthesia in the Government Medical College (GMC) in Nagpur, fell in love with Dr.Prakash who was also pursuing his post graduation in general surgery in the same college. They met for the first time in an operation theatre and gradually their friendship blossomed and they decided to get married as their ideals too matched. 
 
They got married in December 1974, the year recorded severe famine in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
No sweets were served in the wedding feast and the couple received blessings from the inmates of Anandwan, a home for leprosy patients with which he father was associated. They did away with all sacred rites. Soon after the wedding, they left for our destination of life, the virgin forest of Bhamragad, an area which remains cut-off from the rest of the world during the better part of the year, due to a number of rivers criss-crossing the route and dense forest.
 
There were neither roads nor electricity; telephone or any other means of entertainment were unheard of.
 
They did not even have a house to stay in. In March 1974, Lok Biradari Prakalp was badly in need of a doctor, and Dr. Prakash decided to leave his education halfway and took charge of the project and Dr. Mandakini joined him thereafter, not before resigning her job as a lecturer in Anesthesia in Nagpur’s Medical College. Baba Amte was very happy to see both of them joining the project and happily went back to Anandwan.
There were four more voluntary workers and a few cured leprosy patients to help them clear the forestland in order to build houses there. Dr Prakash Amte took inspiration from his illustrious father and Dr Albert Schweitzer and started Lok Biradari Prakalp, a project for tribals in the remotest forests of Gadchirolli district in 1973. Despite the lack of roads, electricity and equipment, and despite being cut off from life in the city for six months of the year, he and the local people have been working relentlessly to improve health and educational services for tribals in this district.
A French couple, Greet and Guy Barthelemy, who had worked with the Nobel Peace prize winner, Dr.Albert Schweitzer in the jungles of Africa, happened to visit Anandwan and Hemalkasa in 1993. They were so deeply impressed by the work of Dr.Prakash and Mandakini Amte, that they christened them as the Schweitzer couple of India.
 
 
Social Services and Beneficiaries
 
Dr. Prakash and Dr. Mandakini have been providing medical services to the tribals living in the remote forest areas, far removed from civilization, scattered in central India, free of charge. Their work in the field of rendering medical services to the deprived, socially ostracized, underprivileged, neglected, poor and illiterate strata of the society is inspiring and commendable. Tribals suffering from malnutrition, wounded by wild animals, orthopedic cases, etc., have no one to turn to but to them. The couple provides treatment to more than 40,000 patients a year. Patients from more than 1,000 villages spread across three states- Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhatisgarh-an area of around 200 square kilometers visits the place. The hospital remains open for twenty-four hours treating all emergency cases. Since 1980, Amtes have been successfully conducting an informal court called Lok Adalat (People’s Court) at Lok Biradari Prakalp itself, where people with disputes of all varieties, except murder, come for amicable settlements, and the disputes are resolved in perfect concord with their traditions and customs.
 
Community Initiatives
 
Deep in the heartland of India in an isolated tribal village called Hemalkasa, Dr. Mandakini helps tribal women deal with their inhibitions and superstitions related to health care, while Dr. Prakash is famous for his medical work with serious injuries and illnesses, like bear bites and burns, and for caring for wild animals rescued by the Amte Animal Ark.
Swiss-Aid stepped in to help in 1976. With their generous help, Lok Biradari Prakalp could construct residential quarters, a hospital building and the school buildings. Later, Oxfam and Action Aid offered to meet the recurring expenses of the project for nine consecutive years (1978-1987). Dr. Jagannath Wani from Maharashtra Seva Samiti Organization (MSSO) of Canada came forward to build residential quarters for doctors, girls’ hostel and an additional school building with twelve classrooms.
Gul Asnani from the USA helped them through Rotary International’s matching grant of medicines for the hospital for five years. The numerous visitors, friends and well wishers have helped the project by donating generously.
 
 
The Network
 
Baba Amte’s legacy has lived on through the tireless work of his two sons and their wives, who in their own ways, have contributed significantly to furthering his vision. Dr. Vikas Amte runs Maharogi Sewa Samiti (MSS) and coordinates operations between Anandwan and satellite projects; his wife Dr. Bharati Amte runs a hospital at Anandwan.
Dr. Prakash Amte and his wife Dr. Mandakini Amte runs the school and hospital at Hemalkasa. The Amtes have been working among the Madia Gond tribals in Bhamragarh, in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district, since the 1970s. They have been successfully working in enhancing the capacity of the Madia Gonds to adapt positively in today’s India, through healing and teaching and other compassionate interventions.
 
Lok Biradari Prakalp (LBP), a project of the Maharogi Sewa Samiti (MSS), Warora, was started by the legendary social worker Baba Amte in 1973 for integrated development of Madia-Gond, the primitive tribals of Bhamragad in Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra, India. Dr. Digant and Aniket, sons of Dr.Prakash and Mandakini and their wives have also joined LBP. 
MSS’s Tribal Welfare Programmes have gained international recognition for their preservation of the culture of tribals of India, who are facing extinction through modern development, exploitation and disease.
Established in 1973, Lok Biradari Prakalp (The People’s Brotherhood) situated in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra serves the Madia-Gond tribals who are alienated from the outside world. In this particular project, primary health care was given top priority. Six sub centers were started in the interior forest area, geographically wide apart from the main hospital, of which three are still functional.
The early years of the project entailed a massive struggle in the extremely difficult conditions of a thick and remote forest. The centre, started in 1973, has recently developed into a fully fledged hospital having 40 beds and caters to over 45,000 patients annually. At Hemalkasa, the hospital is ensconced in the surrounding dense forest, where the Madia Gond tribal patients feel most comfortable in recuperating after their treatment.
The tribals have such high regard for them, that instead of visiting the nearby primary health centres run by the state govt., they prefer to come walking from long distances of up to 100 kms and carrying their sick on the makeshift stretcher of an ordinary charpai (Indian-style bed). It takes them sometimes 3-4 days to reach Hemalkasa.
A residential school (1st to 12th Standard) was started in 1976 for the tribal children now giving free education to nearly 650 students. They are provided with hostel accommodation and given free lodging and boarding facilities. All education material is also provided free of cost to them.
Apart from the formal education, they are also provided vocational training and guidance, which will be useful in their day to day life. e.g.- practical training in farming, seed production, dairy, bamboo craft, ceramic art, greeting cards, tailoring, health education etc.
These programmes are aimed at the survival of the tribals and all efforts have been made to bring about awareness of social rights and duties through continued dialogue and social exposure. Dr. Digant and Aniket also completed their schooling at Hemalkasa.
A small sheltered enclosure has been formed at Hemalkasa to keep orphaned babies of wild animals, thereby protecting them from merciless killing. This rescue-cum-orphanage, houses probably one of the largest one man collection of wild animals in the country and the world at large. The Hemalkasa community of workers lives in complete harmony with a great diversity of wild animals still to be found in this relatively undisturbed, thick forest. Amte’s Animal Ark – Orphanage cum Rescue Centre at Hemalkasa includes panthers, bears, snakes, deer, wild boars and crocodiles.
 
 
Awards and Honours
 
Like his father, Dr.Prakash, along with Dr.Mandakini, won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. The couple was awarded the prestigious Magsaysay Award in 2008 and during the last few years has won several National and International awards for their selfless work. The Principality of Monaco brought out a postage stamp in honour of the life and work of Dr.Prakash and Mandakini in 1995 - just as they had done for Dr.Albert Schweitzer in 1955. This was only the second time that the kingdom of Monaco brought out a stamp to honour a foreigner for its humanitarian work. Mr.Guy and Dr. Greet Barthelemy, who had worked with Dr. Schweitzer in the early fifties, visited the project in 1992.
They were moved to see the similarity of conditions at Hemalkasa and those in Africa where Dr. Schweitzer worked. And when he received the Nobel Prize in 1954, the Prince of Monaco released a postal stamp in his appreciation. This French couple went back and appealed to the Prince of Monaco to publish a postal stamp to honour Amtes, and published the stamp in their name in 1995. This helped them win more friends from both abroad and home.
 
The extensive, selfless services being rendered by Dr. Prakash Amte and Dr.Mandakini Amte and the organizations they are involved with for the social betterment of the ethnic people of India and their successful efforts towards reaching out to the most needy members of the society in the remote parts of India is truly exemplary and is commended through the Hamdan Award for Volunteers in Humanitarian Medical Services.
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