By Arré Bench Dec. 01, 2020
Sheetal Amte spent years carrying forward her grandfather Baba Amte’s legacy. The 39-year-old public health expert, who died by alleged suicide, worked toward upliftment of marginalised populations – leprosy patients, physically handicapped individuals, tribals. She helped transform Anandwan into a smart village.
The Maharogi Seva Samiti (MSS), one of India’s largest non-profit organisations, was struck by tragedy this week when its CEO Dr Sheetal Amte, 39, was found dead at her residence in Anandwan, Maharashtra. Amte was the granddaughter of Baba Amte, the social activist who came to be known as “the modern Gandhi of India” for his work in helping those afflicted with disease and poverty. After his death in 2008, management of MSS passed to his surviving family members, including his two sons, Vikas and Prakash Amte, and their children. However, Sheetal had been involved in a conflict with her family members over MSS’s management only days before her demise, which many news reports are calling a suicide. But The Indian Express reported that the Nagpur Police have not yet ruled her death as a suicide, and have currently registered a case of accidental death.
— editorji (@editorji) December 1, 2020
Though the events leading up to Sheetal Amte’s death are tragic, she spent years before that carrying forward her grandfather’s legacy of social work and helping uplift downtrodden members of society. At Anandwan, around 125 kilometres from Nagpur, MSS set up a space for marginalised populations – leprosy patients, physically handicapped individuals, members of tribal communities – to make a livelihood. Sheetal Amte was closely involved in transforming Anandwan into a smart village, with a focus on technological efficiency, economic productivity, and reducing environmental impact in the settlement.
Dr Sheetal Amte was precious. #NGO & #CharitableTrust need to be run like social enterprises. Transparency needs to maintained. The Amte family's contribution is huge, May God give them strength and Sheetal ji justice. #omshanti https://t.co/INrqwtX8FI
— Shweta Shalini (@shweta_shalini) November 30, 2020
In 2016, Amte was chosen by the World Economic Forum as one of their “Young Global Leaders”. In addition to her work with MSS, she also founded two leadership training programmes for medical professionals in India called “Mashaal” and “Chirag”. At Anandwan, she adapted a Japanese model of afforestation through dense plantation of native trees for Indian conditions. Her model was later adopted by the Maharashtra state government and dubbed the Anandwan Dense Forest Model.
I am absolutely shocked at the news of the sudden demise of young Dr. Sheetal Amte, grand-daughter of the legendary Baba Amte. She was a passionate environmentalist & completely devoted to the cause of forest conservation. Her social conscience was very deep. Truly, truly tragic!
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) November 30, 2020
Along with her achievements as a social worker, Amte was also an artist in her private life, sharing her paintings on social media.
— Dr. Sheetal Amte-Karajgi (@AmteSheetal) November 30, 2020
As the police continue to investigate her apparent suicide, it’s clear that Dr Sheetal Amte is gone too soon.