Dr. M. S. Swaminathan: Architect of India’s Agricultural Renaissance

Name and Birth:

Full name: Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan

Birth: 7 August 1925, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India

Death: 28 September 2023, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Education:

  • B.Sc. degree in Zoology from the Maharajas College in Thiruvananthapuram, and also in Agricultural Sciences from the Coimbatore Agricultural College.
  • M.Sc. degree in Agricultural Sciences (specializing in genetics and plant breeding) from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in 1949.
  • Ph.D. degree from Cambridge University, UK in 1952.

Services:

  • Founder Chairman, Emeritus Chairman and Chief Mentor of the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) at Chennai, founded in 1988.
  • President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) (1984–90).
  • Director General, International Rice Research Institute, the Philippines (1982-88).
  • Acting Deputy Chairman and later Member (Science and Agriculture), Planning Commission (1980-82).
  • Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture (1979-80).
  • Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) (1972-79).
  • Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) (1972-1979).
  • Director of IARI (1961-72).
  • Faculty of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, in 1954.

Contribution to Agriculture:

Although Dr M.S Swaminathan’s contribution to the field of science is immense, he is known for his great contribution to the field of agriculture in India. He is known as the “Father of Green Revolution” in India.

Soon after India gained independence in 1947, India suffered a food crisis till 1960. The food availability was only 417 g/day/person. The trained geneticist and plant breeding expert Dr M. S Swaminathan called for an agricultural revolution in India called the “Green Revolution” in the 1960s. The main aim of the Green Revolution is to introduce high-yield varieties (HYVs) of cereals to alleviate poverty and malnutrition. It is undeniable that it was capable of minimizing hunger.

In 1963-64 when Dr Norman Borlaug visited India there were extensive multi-location trials of semi-dwarf wheat selections followed by national demonstrations in farmers’ fields, and standardization of agronomic and irrigation practices in 1964-65. Following these, the nation witnessed a quantum jump in agricultural production and the onset of the green revolution in 1967-68.

Delivering a lecture on “Shaping our agricultural future in an era of climate change,” At Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Dr Swaminathan said that “it is the duty of scientists to shape the future and not merely predict it.” He was the one who shaped the agriculture in India. His contribution laid the foundation for India’s surplus agricultural production, a legacy we continue to enjoy today.

Awards and Honors:

  • Member of the Parliament (Rajya Sabha), 2007-2013.
  • Padma Vibhushan in 1989.
  • Padma Bhushan in 1972.
  • Padma Shri in 1967.
  • Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award in 2007.
  • The Mahatma Gandhi Prize of UNESCO in 2000.
  • The Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, disarmament and Development, 2000.
  • The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal in 2000.
  • The first World Food Prize in 1987.
  • The Albert Einstein World Science Award in 1986.
  • Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1971.
  • S.S. Bhatnagar Award for his contribution to biological sciences in 1961.
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of London.
  • Fellow of the US National Academy of Sciences.
  • He has received 81 honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the world.

He is awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in recognition of his significant contribution to securing India’s food security.

References:

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