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M S Swaminathan – The fight against hunger

18-08-2017 01:00 PM | Lathika Saju | My Indian Dream

M S Swaminathan – The fight against hunger | My Indian Dream

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M S Swaminathan is the father of India’s Green Revolution

M S Swaminathan is a renowned geneticist known for playing a leading role in India’s Green Revolution, a programme in which he developed high yield varieties of wheat and rice that alleviated the food scarcity in many parts of the country.

The high yield variety of seeds were sown in the fields of poor farmers thereby enabling them to overcome hunger and poverty.  His leadership and success in introducing and further developing high-yielding varieties of wheat in India earned him the title of  "Father of India’s Green Revolution."

His vision to rid the world of hunger and poverty led him to establish the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation of which he is the chairman. He always had in mind the goal to move India to sustainable development, especially using environmentally sustainable agriculture, sustainable food security and the preservation of biodiversity, which he calls an "evergreen revolution".

M S Swaminathan was born on 1925 in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. His father, a surgeon was an ardent follower of Gandhi  who took part in the swadeshi  movement. His efforts  also led in the opening of temples to Dalits as well as eradicating a dreaded disease- filariasis in Kumbakonam. Thus his father set an example for him to do social service.

As Swaminathan hailed from a family of doctors, he took admission in a medical school after matriculation. However, the incident of the Great Bengal famine of 1943 where over 3 million people starved to death due to acute rice shortage affected him so much that he decided to devote his life to making India free of hunger.

He switched over to the agricultural field from medical school and decided to pursue a career in agricultural sciences. His aim was to take up agricultural research so that farmers can produce more.

He had passed the Union Public Service Commission exam and qualified for the Indian Police Service. He, however, chose to accept the UNESCO Fellowship to continue his IARI Research. He studued in universities abroad and completed his PhD in 1952. 

 He then accepted a post-doctoral research associateship at the University of Wisconsin, Department of Genetics and although he was very satisfied with the research work there, he declined an offer of a full time faculty position and returned to India to lead the Green Revolution.

His contributions to the field of agriculture didn’t go unnoticed and he won numerous awards and recognition. The first World Food Prize was awarded to M S Swaminathan in October 1987. Javier Perez de Cuellar, Secretary General of the United Nations, wrote: "Dr. Swaminathan is a living legend. His contributions to Agricultural Science have made an indelible mark on food production in India and elsewhere in the developing world. By any standards, he will go into the annals of history as a world scientist of rare distinction."

Swaminathan has been described as "the Father of Economic Ecology” by the United Nations Environment Programme.

In 1999, he was included in Time magazine’s  "20 most influential Asian people of the 20th century." Only two other Indians were in the list -  Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.

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