MS Swaminathan: Father of Green Revolution

Synopsis

Dr. MS Swaminathan, hailed as the father of India’s green revolution, was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna for his outstanding contributions to agriculture and farmers’ welfare. Recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the twenty most influential Asians of the 20th century, he played a pivotal role in India’s self-reliance in agriculture during challenging times.

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Dr MS Swaminathan, fondly known as the father of India’s green revolution, on Friday, was conferred the Bharat Ratna for his contribution to the nation in agriculture and farmers’ welfare, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

“He played a pivotal role in helping India achieve self-reliance in agriculture during challenging times and made outstanding efforts towards modernizing Indian agriculture. We also recognise his invaluable work as an innovator and mentor and encouraging learning and research among several students,” PM Modi said in a post on X.

Swaminathan passed away recently at the age of 98, but his contributions to the nation’s agriculture landscape remain unparalleled in many ways. The Green Revolution was a programme that paved the way for a huge growth in the production of rice and wheat through the adaptation of chemical–biological technology.

Swaminathan, born on August 7, 1925, in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, earned recognition from TIME Magazine as one of the twenty most influential Asians of the 20th century, alongside Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, making him one of the only three Indians on the esteemed list.

In the 1960s, Swaminathan successfully persuaded the government that the solution to India’s grain shortage was the high-yielding dwarf wheat introduced by US scientist Norman Borlaug in Mexico. He customized the seeds for Indian conditions and provided training to farmers on cultivation.

In Punjab, the wheat yield surged fivefold within five years, from 1.91 million tonnes in 1965-66 to 5.15 million tonnes in 1970-71.

Swaminathan obtained a Ph.D. in genetics from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. However, he declined a professorship offer in the United States when he realized that his education aimed at “producing enough food” for post-independence India and serving the nation.

“It was at that time, in 1942, that Gandhiji gave a call for the Quit India Movement. And, in 1942-43, there was the Bengal famine. Many of us, who were students at that time and were very idealistic, asked ourselves, what can we do for an Independent India?” said Swaminathan, as per a book published by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.

“So I decided, because of the Bengal famine, to study agriculture. I changed my field and went to the Agriculture College at Coimbatore, instead of going to a Medical College,” Swaminathan said.

Swaminathan’s efforts extended beyond farmers, the impoverished, and rural communities; he also promoted the involvement of women in agriculture, advocating for their role not only as labourers but also as co-managers.

Also Read: Former PM Charan Singh gets Bharat Ratna: Here is all you should know about ‘Champion of Farmers’

Here are some of MS Swaminathan’s top achievements:

  • Swaminathan was awarded the Padma Shri in 1967 and Padma Bhushan in 1972 and Padma Vibushan in 1989.
  • Swaminathan took up leadership roles in several agricultural research institutions, including serving as the Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and later the International Rice Research Institute.
  • Swaminathan served as the principal secretary of the ministry of agriculture in 1979.
  • Swaminathan became the president of the International Union of the Conservation of Nature and Natural resources in 1988.
  • Swaminathan was awarded Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award in 1961 and the Albert Einstein World Award of Science in 1986 and the first World Food Prize in 1987.

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Roy Walsh

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