Chitra Das (PG Scholar)

Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan (1925 to 2023), who recently passed away(on 28 September 2023), often referred to as "Father of the Green Revolution in India," was indeed a pivotal figure in the field of agriculture and food security in India. He made significant contributions to the agricultural sector in India and played a key role in initiating the Green Revolution, which had a profound impact on India's food production and self-sufficiency.

Milestones in life of Dr. M. S. Swaminathan :
  • 1925: Born in Kumbakonam, Madras Presidency.
  • 1940: Pursued higher education in Zoology and Agriculture (initially aimed to pursue a medical career but shifted his focus to agriculture due to the Bengal famine of 1942-43, a tragic event that left a profound impact on him and stirred his passion for improving India's agricultural sector.)
  • 1947-1949: Joined the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI).
  • 1954: Collaborated with Dr. Norman Borlaug on wheat research.
  • 1979-1982: Appointed as the director-general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
  • 1982: Became the Director General of the International Rice Research Institute.
  • 1987: Awarded the first World Food Prize for his contributions to agriculture.
  • 1988: Established the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.
  • 2002: Elected as the President of Pugwash Conferences, an international organization that promotes peace and disarmament.
  • 2004: Appointed as the Chair of the National Commission on Farmers in India.
  • 2007-2013: Served as a member of Rajya Sabha, where he introduced the Women Farmers’ Bill to address the concerns of female farmers.

  • Role in the Green Revolution: He was widely recognized for his pivotal role in the Green Revolution, a transformative phase in Indian agriculture that significantly increased crop productivity and ensured Food Security for the nation.
  • High-Yielding Wheat and Rice: Swaminathan's groundbreaking work with Norman Borlaug in developing high-yielding wheat and rice varieties, notably the semi-dwarf wheat varieties, revolutionized agriculture in India during the 1960s and '70s. This transformation significantly increased crop yields, making India self-sufficient in food production and averting the looming threat of famine.
  • Farmer Welfare: Swaminathan advocated for the welfare of farmers, emphasizing fair prices for agricultural produce and sustainable farming practices.
  • As chair of the National Commission of Farmers: The ‘Swaminathan Report’ probed the causes of farm distress. One of its recommendations, that Minimum Support Prices (MSP) should at least be 50% more than average production costs, continues to be a primary demand of farm unions across India. MSP is the price at which the government purchases crops directly from farmers.
  • Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Right Act 2001: He played a pivotal role in developing the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Right Act 2001.
  • Global recognition of the 'Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere: He will be remembered forever for his role in the global recognition of the 'Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere (Go MMB)' and Kerala's Kuttanad known for 'traditional cultivation of paddy below sea-level' as a globally important agricultural heritage site. He also contributed to the conservation and enhancement of the biodiversity and ecology of these regions.
  • He also established the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF): In 1988 to promote sustainable agriculture and rural development. MSSRF focuses specifically on tribal and rural communities with a pro-poor, pro-women and pro-nature approach.

Field of Influence of Swaminathan :

1. Alleviating Food Insecurity: Spearheaded the Green Revolution in India, significantly boosting food production and ensuring food security, pulling the nation out of the 'Hunger Trap.'

2. Advancements in Crop Research: Enhanced crop productivity by transferring genes for fertilizer response from Japonica to Indica varieties, thereby increasing agricultural output. Collaborated with Norman Borlaug to develop high-yielding dwarf wheat varieties suited for Indian conditions. Pioneered the development of high-yielding Basmati rice varieties, utilizing innovative mutation technology across various crops.

3. Advocacy for Sustainable Agriculture: Raised awareness about the significance of sustainable agriculture, genetics, and breeding to enhance crop varieties. Initiated programs like "lab to land", promoting the practical application of research in agricultural practices.

4. Diversified Agricultural Initiatives: Emphasized nutrition, biofortification, increased funding for agriculture, precision farming, and the active participation of women in agriculture.

5. Leadership in Rice Cultivation: Led the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) with visionary leadership, contributing to advancements in rice cultivation, including innovations in C4 carbon fixation and the development of high-yielding Basmati rice varieties.

6. Recognition as a Visionary in Agriculture: Acknowledged as a true visionary and pioneer in the fields of agriculture and sustainable development, leaving a lasting impact on agricultural practices and policies.

  • He has been honored as the first World Food Prize Laureate in 1987.
  • He has also been conferred with the Padma Shri (1967), Padma Bhushan (1972) and Padma Vibhushan (1989).
  • Various international honors including the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1971) and the Albert Einstein World Science Award (1986).

Dr. M. S. Swaminathan's passing in September 2023 marked the end of an era, but his contributions to agriculture and food security in India and around the world continue to be celebrated and remembered. His ideas and initiatives continue to shape agricultural policies and practices in India and inspire future generations of agricultural scientists and policymakers. Hence he rightly said,

“If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right.”