Events: EPGP Seminar Series – Magsaysay laureates Dr Prakash Baba Amte and Dr Mandakini Amte

‘Work with people, not just for them’: Magsaysay laureates Dr Prakash Baba Amte and Dr Mandakini Amte

Invited to deliver the final lecture of the EPGP Seminar Series for the year, at IIMB, the couple from Hemalkasa walk the audience through their extraordinary life as doctors to the Madia Gond tribals, teachers to the children of the hamlet and rescue workers to animals in distress

Reflecting on how the journey of his father, Baba Amte, who had worked tirelessly to empower people suffering from leprosy, influenced his own life, Dr. Prakash Amte, said: “My father was a disciplined, strict and fearless man, but he also knew the power of love and that is what drew him and me to work with helpless people.”

The students of IIMB’s one-year MBA, the Executive Post Graduate Program (EPGP) hosted Magsaysay awardees Dr. Prakash Baba Amte and Dr. Mandakini Amte as speakers of the grand finale lecture of the EPGP Seminar Series, at IIMB, today. Prof. Manaswini Bhalla, faculty from the Economics & Social Sciences area at IIMB, moderated the discussion (‘Sanvad’) with them on their life and work in Hemalkasa in Maharashtra.

Dr. Prakash Baba Amte is a social worker from Maharashtra. Amte and his wife, Dr. Mandakini Amte, were awarded the Magsaysay Award for ‘Community Leadership’ in 2008 for their philanthropic work in the form of the Lok Biradari Prakalp amongst the Madia Gonds in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra and the neighbouring states of Telangana and Madhya Pradesh. In 2002, Dr. Prakash Amte was honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India for his social work.

Talking about their early challenges in Hemalkasa, primarily inhabited by the Madia Gonds, Dr. Prakash Amte said, “We learnt their language and built a small clinic in the form of a hut under a tree. We were often confronted by self-doubt, especially when they chose to go to the village tantric than to us, but our commitment and the consistent support from the family of volunteers kept us going. We just worked harder and longer and smarter until we gained their acceptance and trust.” 

From their days as struggling doctors in a hamlet without electricity, water and roads to the time they set up the Animal Ark, a home for rescued animals ranging from deer to crocodiles to hyaenas, the couple recounted their trials and tribulations with a liberal dose of humour. “I thought living in the jungle was like staying in a resort. My illusions were quickly shattered,” quipped Mandakini tai talking about setting up home and clinic as a young bride in the wilderness.

Dr. Prakash Amte was quick to add that got the news of their first born, two months late, as he was in a place with no phonelines, and no posts or telegraph office. “What kept us going was our belief in each other, our commitment to contributing towards the upliftment of the needy. Instead of worrying about what is happening in the world, we must work towards solving problems.”

Urging the audience at IIMB, which largely comprised students, to practice compassion and integrity, Dr. Amte said: “We know no other religion but humanity.”

The EPGP students, who had put together a beautiful afternoon with clips from documentaries on the couple, and tributes in the forms of moving poems about their work in Hemalkasa, were delighted to hear the Amtes hold forth on a variety of subjects ranging from their unorthodox marriage (“no horoscope-matching, no mahurat”) to their sense of quiet pride when children from Hemalkasa are now teachers, doctors, engineers returning to work with them.

About EPGP Seminar Series:
The EPGP Seminar Series provides an opportunity to understand how classroom learning translates in the real world. Speakers of repute, from recent start-ups to established organizations, from sportspersons to artistes, address the batch on subjects ranging from industry challenges to future trends. It also fosters a holistic learning setting as eminent personalities from backgrounds as diverse as logistics, healthcare, finance, entertainment, etc. provide their perspectives drawing upon their personal experiences.
This student-driven initiative encourages the class to invite speakers from diverse backgrounds and boost a co-learning atmosphere not only within the batch but also engage with the speaker in a way such that the interaction is mutually rewarding. EPGP students of the present batch have engaged so far with personalities such as Ajith Pai, COO Delhivery, Vidya Bala, Head FundsIndia, Dr. Ajay Bakshi, CEO ParkwayPantai.
Speakers in the past few years have included CEOs of businesses, industry titans, sportspersons, authors, bloggers, social activists like Thomas Raja, popularly known as Auto Raja, a social worker, who has dedicated his life to rescuing and rehabilitating the deserted and dying from the streets of Bangalore.