NEW DELHI, NOV 25: Gandhian and noted social worker Baba Amte has been chosen for the coveted `Gandhi Peace Prize' for 1999 for his exemplary work for treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients and his concept of the "Shramik Vidyapeeth."
A high powered jury chaired by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee unanimously decided to confer the award on the 85-year-old Amte, Union Minister for Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports Ananth Kumar told mediapersons here today.
Other members of jury were Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sonia Gandhi, Chief Justice of India Justice A S Anand, former president R Venkataraman and A T Ariyaratne of Sri Lanka.
Instituted by the Centre, the award carrying a cash amount of Rs one crore, would be given by President K R Narayanan at a function in the first quarter of 2000, Ananth Kumar said, adding Amte has accepted the award.
The previous recipients of the award are: Julius Nyerere, former president of Tanzania, A T Ariyaratne, founder president of SarvodayaMovement in Sri Lanka, Gerhard Fischer of Germany and the Ramakrishna Mission.
`Gandhi Peace Prize' is the highest award given by the Centre in any field to suitably acknowledge the contribution that the Gandhian approach is making at the global level towards peace and harmony.
Kumar said as many as 34 nominations were received of which 27 pertained to individuals and seven to organisations.
In his crusade against leprosy and the popular misconceptions about the disease, Amte established `Anandvan,' a place near Pune as a model of social reconstruction.
Amte has been propagating unique plans for building a ``new India'' among India's youth in the shape of `Lok biradari' (people's brotherhood) in remote tribal areas.
"The secret of Baba's success is to be found in his indomitable determination, self-renunciation and teaching the patients to manage their own institutions with meticulous efficiency," Kumar said, adding "Baba has truly upheld all his Gandhian values and emerged as a beacon to theyouth of the country on the eve of the millennium."
Baba Amte, son express joy over award
Baba Amte (in Pune): ``I am extremely happy to receive the award not only on behalf of myself but also thousands of leprosy patients and other downtroddens for whose cause I have been working'', Baba Amte said today.
He told PTI here, ``I am now entering my 86th year and I find that Mahatma Gandhi is more relevant in the 21st century than it was in our time. If we listen to the words of Gandhi, then it will be an era of conciliations and not confrontations''.
Vikas Amte (in Nagpur): ``The government should recognise the struggle of Baba Amte who is spending almost all the time on the banks of Narmada while deeply involving himself in the Sardar Sarovar agitation'', Baba's eldest son dr Vikas Amte today said.
Talking to PTI on telephone from Baba's leprosy ashram `Anandvan' near Warora, about 120 km from here, Dr Amte said he and the residents of Anandvan were happy to learnthe conferment of the coveted prize on Baba Amte on the eve of his 86th birthday.
``Though it came a bit late, it was expected'', he added.
Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.