• Thursday, November 30, 2023


MS Swaminathan, architect of India’s Green Revolution, dies at 98

The legendary agricultural scientist had played a big role in developing high-yielding varieties of paddy that revolutionised India’s agricultural sector.

MS Swaminathan in 2006 (Photo by RAVEENDRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

INDIA lost one of its bright sons on Thursday (28) when Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, a legendary agricultural scientist and father of the country’s ‘Green Revolution’, passed away in the southern city of Chennai.

He was 98 and is survived by three daughters. Swaminathan’s wife Mina passed away last year.

Born in Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district of the southern state of Tamil Nadu on August 7, 1925, Swaminathan was an agronomist, plant geneticist, administrator and humanitarian who had played a vital role in developing high-yielding varieties of paddy that revolutionised India’s agricultural sector by helping the country’s low-income farmers produce more yield.

After receiving a postgraduate degree in cytogenetics in 1949 from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, Swaminathan went on to earn a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Cambridge, where he met his wife.

Swaminathan, who started his career in 1949 researching on the genetics of potato, rice, wheat and jute, developed high-yield variety seeds of wheat with Norman Borlaug and other scientists at a time when India was staring at scarcity of foodgrains threatening mass famine.

Called the ‘Father of Economic Ecology’ by the United Nations Environment Programme, Swaminathan worked with a number of agriculture ministers of India during the 1960s and 1970s for the success of the ‘Green Revolution’ which led to an exponential rise in wheat and rice productivity through adaptation of new technology.

Swaminathan was awarded the first World Food Prize in 1987 for developing and leading the process of introducing high-yielding wheat and rice varieties in India. He thereafter set up the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai.

Among other awards that he received are Ramon Magsaysay Award, Albert Einstein World Science Award, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award, Indira Gandhi Prize and HK Firodia Award. He was also conferred with some of India’s top civilian awards — Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan.

Swaminathan had also served as the director general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research and International Rice Research Institute, the Philippines. He also served as the principal secretary of the ministry of agriculture in 1979.

In 1988, he became the president of the International Union of the Conservation of Nature and Natural resources. In 2004, he became the chair of the National Commission on Farmers.

He was also a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha or Upper House of the Indian parliament between 2007 and 2013.

Swaminathan was also named one of the 20 most influential Asians of the 20th century by Time magazine.

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