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Dr Prakash and Mandakini Amte: For bringing change where it matters most

'I hope now the govt will do more for tribals'

August 11, 2008

Doctors Prakash and Mandakini Amte won the Magasaysay Award this year for their work among Madia Gond tribals. They hail from an extraordinary family of social activists.

When we came to work here in 1974, there were no roads, electricity and telephones. Now it has improved, but most of the time there is load shedding and the telephone does not work.

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As a country, we have progressed a lot. But progress should begin with providing basic facilities for all citizens. This has not happened in India.

Though the government has very good plans, their implementation is not good. The plans do not reach tribals in remote areas. The biggest problems faced by tribals here is unemployment. The land here is not fertile, there is no irrigation and agriculture is dependant on rain alone.

What makes receiving the Magsaysay special is that Baba (Amte, India's legendary crusader for the poor) too won the same award in 1985. He would have been proud today.

This award has brought the tribals to the centre-stage and that makes me more happy. I hope now the government will do more for tribals.

Baba chose this place when he was young. As he was busy with his work among leprosy patients he could not devote time here. One day he brought us here for a picnic and told us to work for the tribals.

I was working as a lecturer in the medical college and was going to marry Prakash, who told me he was going to work among tribals in the jungle. I had never been to a jungle, leave alone work there. But I was excited and readily agreed. So after Prakash's post graduation, we came here.

We have never thought of earning money by doing private practice. We were never interested in it. After our graduation we just came here. This has been our life. It has been difficult at times but satisfying.

My son Digant and his wife Anagaha are both doctors working with us. My other son Aniket is an engineer and runs the school here. We are trying our best to carry forward Baba's legacy and our children are already following us.

Dr Prakash and Dr Mandakini Amte work in Hemalkasa, eastern Maharashtra, where they began by examining tribals under a tree. They run a hospital and school free of charge. Dr Mandakini Amte spoke to A Ganesh Nadar.

Image: Dr Prakash Amte and Dr Mandakini Amte. Photograph, courtesy: Lok Biradari Prakalp

Also see: 'Victor is he who even in defeat doesn't surrender'

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