Dr. M.S. Swaminathan was the Father of the Agricultural Revolution in India, who is the first person to receive the World Food Award. He made India the powerhouse of innovation in agriculture and agronomy. Dr. M.S. Swaminathan’s demise has brought to end the golden era that is an irreparable loss to India. The contribution of this agriculturist is immense, who freed India from food famine, and also made India a storehouse of food grains. His contribution to the agronomy is so versatile and long-lived that he will remain alive in the memories of a grateful nation for many centuries to come. He has left behind such a legacy that the crisis of Indian agriculture and global food will never come again. His contributions as a scientific leader of the ‘Agricultural Revolution Movement’ began during the severe famine of 1943, when lakhs of people died for every single grain of rice. This grave human tragedy and crisis awakened the commitment and determination of this eighteen year old Swaminathan from Kerala University to eradicate hunger in the country with his passion and zeal for agricultural research. He carved a new Swastika in Indian agriculture by embarking on a mission to develop high yielding varieties of wheat and rice. His agricultural revolution had freed India from the stigma of being the country with the greatest food shortage in the world, and made it self-reliant in less than 25 years. Since that time, India’s agricultural renaissance and advocacy of sustainable agriculture geared towards the Evergreen Agricultural Revolution that earned them the status of world leader in the field of sustainable food security.
Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan was born on 7 August 1925. He developed high productivity wheat hybrid seeds in 1966 by mixing seeds from Mexico with the domestic varieties from Punjab. M / s. Swaminathan was awarded ‘Padma Shri’ in 1967, ‘Padma Bhushan’ in 1972 and ‘Padma Vibhushan’ in 1989 by the Government of India in the field of ‘Science and Engineering’. He was also honoured with the Magsaysay Award in 1971 and the Albert Einstein World Award in 1986. With the funds received along with various awards and honours, M.S. Swaminathan established a research center in Chennai for ‘sustainable agriculture and rural development’ in the early 1990s.
The main objective of Swaminathan Research Foundation is to promote employment through generating economic development strategies based on the development and dissemination of nature and women- friendly technologies in Indian villages. The work being done by Swaminathan and his colleagues in the fields of environment, agriculture and food technology has received international recognition. Swaminathan has also held positions in UNESCO in the field of environmental technology with responsibility for South Asia. In recognition of his great scholarship, he has been included in the Royal Society of England and the National Science Academies of Bangladesh, China, Italy, Sweden, USA and Soviet Union. He is one of the founding members of the ‘World Academy of Sciences’. In 1999, Time magazine named Swaminathan one of the 20 most influential Asian persons of the 20th century.
Swaminathan was one of the greatest people who did something unique and extraordinary on the spear of India. Swaminathan was a true Indian and a personality full of nationalism. When the country was struggling for political independence, young Swaminathan fought hard to free the country from hunger, and created a new history of success. He shaped a unique and effective technique to increase grain production in independent India. It was his dream that in a country like India, food grains should be produced in such large quantities that no one here would have to sleep hungry, but it would also be a step forward in eradicating the hunger of other countries. Today, during the golden period of independence, India exports grains to many countries, kudos to his contributions. He did many experiments bringing innovation in agriculture, and developed a cold-resistant variety of potato. He brought a revolution in rice and wheat production. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi emphasized his suggestions and experiments, and started filling the grain reserves of her country. Today, if our country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in a position to say that India can feed the entire world, then undoubtedly, most of the credit for this goes to Swaminathan.
India is a country of millions of villages and most of the people here are associated with agriculture. Despite this, for many years the people related to agriculture continued to spend their lives on the verge of starvation. Whatever may be the reason behind this, it is also true that even during British rule, many people involved in farming or labour face great difficulties in getting food when the country was in the grip of famine for a long period. Regarding India, there was a feeling that despite being associated with agriculture, it is difficult for India to get rid of hunger. The reason behind this crisis was that ancient agricultural equipment and seeds were being used in India for centuries. No one had paid attention to the improvement of seeds for better crops. There was an expectation of a new revolution in Indian agriculture, which Swaminathan carried out. Swaminathan, who is committed to changing the condition and direction of villages, welfare of farmers and upliftment of the poorest people of the society, cannot be praised enough. He devoted a long time of his life to increase agricultural production. During the famine of the 1960s, he, along with American scientist Norman Borlaug and other scientists, developed seeds of high and improved yielding varieties of wheat.
It is the result of Swaminathan’s efforts that India has become self-sufficient in food grains production. While holding many important positions, he gave new dimensions to India’s agriculture, and opened new doors of advanced agriculture. He was a guide and source of inspiration for various governments in making agricultural policies. The recommendations of his committee, ranging from determining the minimum price for the produce to recovering agriculture from losses, will remain a guide and base vision in the future. He was the first experimenter in empowering women labourers by removing gender discrimination in agriculture. How pleasant it is that the agricultural scientist who became a ray of hope for crores of people of the country and was helpful in procuring food, was blessed with a long life of 98 years and his daughter and former Chief Scientist at WHO, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, congratulated the country with great pride. Swaminathan has left this world very peacefully. Swaminathan, who is committed to the welfare of farmers and upliftment of the poorest of the poor in the society, cannot be praised enough. The heights and achievements that Swaminathan has achieved by living a purposeful life are beyond any flight of imagination. This country will always be indebted to this greatest ever agricultural scientist. His unique contribution in building a self-reliant India is an indelible article in our history.
By Lalit Garg,
Writer, Journalist, Columnist