Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, commonly known as MS Swaminathan, was the father of India's green revolution. He died on September 28 aged 98. He had played a crucial role in developing high-yielding varieties of paddy that helped ensure India’s low-income farmers produce more yield.
Swaminathan was born on August 7, 1925, in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. He was an agronomist, agricultural scientist, plant geneticist, administrator and humanitarian.
In 1949, Swaminathan started his career by researching the genetics of potatoes, wheat, rice, and jute. When India was at this time on the verge of mass famine leading to scarcity of food grains, Swaminathan along with Norman Borlaug and other scientists developed the high-yield variety seeds of wheat.
UN called him the 'Father of Economic Ecology'
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has called him the 'Father of Economic Ecology'. He had worked with agriculture ministers including C Subramaniam and Jagjivan Ram during the 1960s and 70s for the success of the Green Revolution. Notably, the Green Revolution was an initiative for the increase in the production of food grains resulting from the use of high-yielding.
He is the founder of an eponymous research foundation. Swaminathan coined the term 'Evergreen Revolution' in 1990 to describe his vision of 'productivity in perpetuity without associated ecological harm'.
He was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2007 and completed his full term till 2013. During his tenure he tabled a bill for the recognition of women farmers in India, however, it was lapsed.
Awards and honours
For his contributions to the development and promotion of high-yielding wheat and rice varieties in India, he received the first World Food Prize in 1987. Following this recognition, he established the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Taramani, Chennai. This foundation continues to work on various aspects of sustainable agriculture and rural development to improve the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities in India.
Apart from the World Food Prize, Swaminathan was also awarded numerous international awards and honours, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1971, the Albert Einstein World Science Award in 1986, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1991, the Four Freedoms Award in 2000, and the Planet and Humanity Medal of the International Geographical Union in 2000.
He had been conferred with the Order of the Golden Heart of the Philippines, the Order of Agricultural Merit of France, the Order of the Golden Ark of the Netherlands, and the Royal Order of Sahametrei of Cambodia. Notably, China awarded him with the Award for International Co-operation on Environment and Development.
He had also been conferred with the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. He was also the recipient of the HK Firodia Award, the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award and the Indira Gandhi Prize.
About his tenure in various offices
During his tenure in various offices, Swaminathan held several important roles. He served as Director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) from 1961 to 1972, Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Agricultural Research and Education from 1972 to 1979, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture in 1979-1980, Acting Deputy Chairman and later Member (Science and Agriculture) in the Planning Commission from 1980 to 1982 and Director General of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines from 1982 to 1988.
In 2004, Swaminathan was designated as the chair of the National Commission on Farmers, which was established to address the issue of farmer distress, particularly the rising number of suicides among farmers. The commission presented its report in 2006, and one of its key recommendations was that the Minimum Selling Price (MSP) should be set at a minimum of 50 per cent above the weighted average cost of production. This recommendation aimed to ensure that farmers receive fair and remunerative prices for their agricultural produce.
In addition to his work in India, Swaminathan had a significant global influence, contributing to various international agricultural and environmental initiatives. His contributions were so noteworthy that in 1999, he was one of three Indians, along with Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, on Time magazine's list of the '20 Most Influential Asian People of the 20th Century', along with Eiji Toyoda, Dalai Lama and Mao Zedong.
The passing of MS Swaminathan marks the end of an era marked by disruptive innovations in agricultural research, education and extension.
He is survived by his three daughters Soumya, Madhura, and Nitya. His wife Mina passed away in 2022.