Eminent social worker and Padma Shri awardee Damodar Ganesh Bapat, who dedicated his life to the treatment and service of leprosy patients, died at a hospital in Bilaspur district in Chhattisgarh. He was 84.

“Bapat was admitted to Apollo Hospital in Bilaspur last month after he suffered a brain haemorrhage,” an official of the hospital said.

Bapat had dedicated his life to the treatment and service of leprosy patients at an ashram run by Bharatiya Kushta Nivarak Sangh (BKNS) in Sothi village in Janjgir-Champa district of the state for the last four-and-a-half decades,” said Dipak Kumar Kahra, a worker at the ashram.

Born in Amravati district of Maharashtra, Bapat shifted to Jashpur (now a district) in Chhattisgarh in 1970 after his father’s demise and got associated with RSS-affiliated Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, he said.

In 1972, getting impressed by the work of Dr Sadashiv Katre in the field of leprosy through BKNS in Champa, Bapat joined the ashram and since then he was working with it, he added.

Bapat was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, by President Ram Nath Kovind in 2018.

His body was brought to the ashram on Saturday morning and kept there to enable people to pay homage.

The mortal remains were later handed over to the Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences (CIMS), Bilaspur as Bapat had donated his body, Kahra said.

Meanwhile, Governor Anusuiya Uikey and Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel have expressed deep grief over the demise of Bapat.

“He dedicated his life to serve others, to serve humanity. Shri Bapat has done an exemplary work all his life by serving leprosy patients, which will always be inspiring to others,” the governor said in a statement.

In his condolence message, the chief minister said, “Shri Bapat had taken several initiatives for the rehabilitation of leprosy patients along with their treatment at the ashram.”