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अरण्यातल्या प्रकाशवाटा - documentary on Dr. Prakash Amate Year: 2009

Synopsis and Information:
Prakashvata is must watch documentary on Dr. Prakash Amte which is based on his own book 'Prakashvata Background
Dr. Prakash Amte is son of renowned Gandhian and social activist Baba Amte. Baba Amte worked for treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients and started 'Anandvan ashram at Chandrapur in Maharashtra. Apart from 'Padma Shree and 'Padma Vibhushan Baba Amte was felicitated with prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award for his public service. Baba Amte was deeply moved by seeing the plight of tribals in the remote forests of Hemalkasa in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. He decided to fight against the injustice done to them and to improve lives of these people. These tribals were totally alienated from the civilized world having no healthcare, no electricity, no roads and no schools. In 1973 he started 'Lokbiradari Prakalp at Hemalkasa.

Fighting the odds
Prakash Amte and his wife Manda Amte immediately after completing their MBBS decided to work for Lokbiradari Prakalp. Along with some volunteers they shifted their base to Hemalkasa aimed at providing basic medical facilities to tribals. This was a tough journey and these young people had to face a lot of hurdles. Hemalkasa, the place, was remote with no road connection. Getting supplies to the Prakalp was a big task moreover in rainy season the place used to be cut off totally because of flooding rivers. There was no electricity and water. The only construction at site was a hut built by volunteers. Wild animals and snakes were plenty. But the main problem was to establishing contact with the tribesmen and gaining their trust. The language was a barrier and till now tribesmen had faith in witch-doctors for treatment. Prakash and Manda Amte learnt tribal language. To get close to tribals Dr. Prakash Amte changed his attire and started wearing only a half pant and an undershirt trying to be one of them. They started providing free medical treatment. Initially they had to perform many complex surgeries with minimum sophisticated facilities available. Once the trust was established patients started visiting hospital even it took three-four days walking to reach to Hemalkasa.

Thirty years down the line Lokbiradari Prakalp has a full fledged hospital with 45 beds and caters to 45,000 patients annually. It is not possible to have doctors for special surgeries all the time so the hospital arranges special surgery camps every year free of cost for tribals.

Dr. Prakash Amte realized the only way tribals can be empowered to fight the injustice done to them is by providing education to them. With the help of volunteers Dr. Prakash Amte started school in 1975 to provide education to tribal children. His own children also studied in the same school started by Lokbiradari Prakalp. Now the Lokbiradari Prakalp has a resident school providing education to 600 students every year. But the real achievement of this school started thirty years ago is that there are tribal students from this school who are doctors, teachers and forest officers.

Animal Rescue Centre
Once Dr. Prakash Amte saw some tribals carrying a monkey which they had killed for food. He saw a live baby was still clinging to his mothers dead body. He took the baby from tribals. Since then the animal rescue centre was started at Lokbiradari Prakalp. Tribals started giving Dr. Amte baby animals for the free medical treatment they got in hospital. Till today they have raised leopards, lion, bears, crocodiles, snakes etc. in rescue centre. Surely the animals raised in Lokbiradari Prakalp are not wild anymore. The leopards and bears were raised like pets. One of the volunteers Vilas Manohar has documented their experiences with wild animals in book 'Negal, which is also a very good book.

Lokbiradari Prakalp has touched the lives of tribals in many ways. Initially the tribals were dependent on forest and wild animals to quench their hunger, later they were taught farming. They used to depend on river water now have bore wells in their villages. Many of the water related diseases are arrested by providing clean drinking water to tribals. More importantly Lokbiradari Prakalp has helped tribals to come close to mainstream India.
Dr. Prakash Amte and Manda Amte spent their entire life towards the unselfish work for the tribals. For this they have received many accolades nationally and internationally. Government of India awarded them 'Padma Shree. They were honoured with Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership. The state of Monaco released a postal stamp in honour of Dr. Prakash Amte and Dr. Manda Amte. But I think the biggest award for them is the transformed lives of the tribals for which they started Lokbiradari Prakalp about three and a half decades ago. is one such rare book that has stays in mind. I bought this book because of two reasons; one, I had read his mother, Sadhana Amtes autobiography, 'Samidha. It had not only touched a chord inside but it had moved me to tears. Reading about fighting adversities and being in the thick of that in an endeavor to uplift Leprosy patients was beyond me. Sadhanatai is a legend; the world needs to draw inspiration from! Secondly, the bookstore where I buy all my books from recommended this book to me saying that I ought to read this one. It stayed on my shelf for a good 6 months before I picked it up to read.

I must say at the outset that the book kept me captivated for two days. I finished reading it in two sittings over two days. The book talks about trials, tribulations and life of Dr. Prakash and Dr. Manda Amte and his brother Dr. Vikas Amte at a place called Hemalkasa in the district of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra for a project called 'Lokbiradari Prakalp.. Dr. Prakash Amte along with his team worked on rehabilitating and exposing the tribe Madiya Gond to the modern world. He taught them to wear clothes, taught then to take care of their health, taught them to read and write and exposed them to human civilization in some sense. What struck me the most is Dr. Prakash Amtes humility and down-to-earth nature! I mean to work for these tribes selflessly is not that easy a task. While he has won, the Ramon Magsaysay award and a Padmashri, the hard work put in by everyone around him has been phenomenal.
In this book, he talks about his migration to Hemalkasa from Anandvan, he shares with the readers his journey starting with his acceptance in the tribal belt, his insurmountable looking challenges, he talks about practicing medicine and his surgeries (all types), and he talks about some life threatening experiences. He established a school there for the children of Hemalkasa. He talks about his innovative experiments; he talks about adopting orphan wild animals.
At the end, he shares with the readers about the acknowledgement he received from society to his endeavor. He also talks briefly about his companion for life, Dr. Manda Amte, His brother and his colleagues. The last chapter is very emotional in content. It choked me on many occasions. He talks so highly about his wife and his brother. Its amazing to be the way he comes across in the book. He says that people often regard him and his wife as Ram and Sita in Hemalkasa. He further says that in Ramayan, Sita asked Ram to get her the golden deer but in his life, Dr. Manda never ever asked him for anything. That part of his booked touched me deep inside. Anybody and everyone who feels very strongly for the general masses needs to read this book to understand how someone can persevere in life and make things happen. All it requires is dedication, determination and a single minded focus.
I decided to talk about this book because the book opened my eyes to a different world. A world I was completely oblivious to! There were many occasions when I just could not relate to these adverse circumstances. I mean, I thought, what if I were in that circumstance! What would I have done! I realized that I had no answer because I could not even imagine a situation like that. The pictures in the book reveal the extreme nature and extreme encounters that Dr. Prakash Amte, his family and colleagues would have encountered. I mean, NGC should actually make a documentary on his and his endeavor. Do they even know that someone in a remote part of India, in a place called Hemalkasa would have done such path breaking work?
The book also woke me up! I mean, each one of us have the responsibility to pitch into helping people uplift society. I understand, each one may not have the time or the resources to actively do it but do we offer a helping hand? If we have not done that then this book sure will wake you up to that responsibility and reality for sure! I also felt that the visibility and recognition he has got for his work in India can be much more. The government of Monaco has released a postal stamp in his honor! I strongly recommend this documentray to everyone. Kudos to Dr. Prakash Amte and his path breaking work at Hemalkasa towards rehabilitating Madiya Gond tribes! My sincere salute to him, Dr. Manda, Vikas, his brother and his entire team!

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