“If agriculture fails, everything else fails”, says The Father of Green Revolution in India, Dr. M.S Swaminathan. He is an eminent Indian geneticist and an administrator know for his stellar contribution to the success of India’s Green Revolution Program. It was a program that made India self-sufficient in making wheat and rice.
Born on 7th August 1925 in the Kumbakonam region of Tamilnadu, Swaminathan was a child to Dr. M.K Sambasivan and Parvati Thangammal Sambasivan. Dr. Sambasivam was a surgeon and a social reformer. He taught Swaminathan that the word “impossible” is just a word but, one can attain sizeable tasks with efforts and will power. Young Swaminathan lost his father at the age of 11 and thereafter he was brought up by his uncle, M. K. Narayanaswami who was a radiologist. He attended the local high school and later the Catholic Little Flower High School in Kumbakonam. Most of his family tree consisted of doctors and so he enrolled himself in a medical school. However, the Bengal famine in 1943 provoked him to switch from the medical field to the agricultural field. He decided to devote his life to getting rid of hunger in India. Swaminathan matriculated himself at Maharajas College in Trivandrum and graduated in 1944 with a bachelor’s degree of science in zoology.
In 1947, the year when India gained its independence, he joined the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi to complete his post graduation in genetics and plant breeding. He chose to accept the UNESCO Fellowship to continue his IARI research on potato genetics at the Wageningen Agricultural University, Institute of Genetics in the Netherlands. In 1950, he joined the School of Agriculture, University of Cambridge, U.K., and earned his Ph.D. in 1952 for the thesis titled “Species Differentiation and the Nature of Polyploidy in certain species of the genus Solanum – section Tuberarium.” Swaminathan became a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin, the U.S.A. where he was offered a full-time faculty position but he declined the proposition and returned to the country.
He was a teacher, researcher, and administrator in AIRI and then became the Director of AIRI from 1966 to 1972. Meanwhile, in 1971 for 6 years, M.S became a member of the National Commission of Agriculture, and in 1972 he was announced as the Director-General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) under Government of India till 1979. From June 1980 to April 1982, he was a member of the Planning Commission (for Agriculture, Rural Development, Science and Education) of India. At the same time, he was also Chairman of the Science Advisory Committee to the Cabinet of India. From April 1982 to January 1988, he was Director General of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines. And from 1988-89, he was Chairman of the Steering Committee for Environment and Forestry of the Planning Commission. Then in 1988–96, he was President, of World Wide Fund for Nature–India.
Dr. M.S Swaminathan has been presented with several awards for his tremendous benefaction in the field of Agricultural Science. Some of his prestigious awards are Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1971, the Albert Einstein World Science Award in 1986, the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Prize in 2000, and the Lal Bahadur Sastri National Award in 2007, among other achievements. Not only these but also he is the recipient of National Honours such as Padma Shri in 1967, Padma Bhushan in 1972, and Padma Vibushan in 1989. Moreover, he has received over 70 honorary Ph.D. degrees from world-wide universities. He was not only awarded nationally, but also received international honors such as UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Gold Medal in 1999, Global Environmental Leadership Award by the Climate Institute 1995, Highest award for International Cooperation on Environment and Development by the Govt of China in 1997, and many more.
In the year 1965, commenced the Green Revolution of India under the leadership of Lal Bahadur Shastri. M.S Swaminathan played a major role by adopting technology that led to an increase in food grain production, especially in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. This revolution proved to be an efficacious method that helped the Indian Government to be self-sufficient by producing its crops and not depending on other countries for the crops.
Dr. M.S Swaminathan currently holds the UNESCO Cousteau Chair in Ecotechnology at the M.S Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, India. He is also the chairman of the National Commission on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security of India (National Commission on Farmers).
He has correctly quoted, “If conservation of natural recourses goes wrong, nothing can go right.” Today, India is self-sufficient only because of this brilliant mind who valued the importance of agriculture in our country. We have learned the right use of technology and so much about wheat and rice. India is home to so many farmers today. For his scientific brilliance, his life’s mission of bringing improved technology to citizens at all levels of society, his pioneering advocacy and humanitarianism, and his inspiration to thousands, requires a salute.