Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan was an Indian agronomist, agricultural scientist, plant geneticist, administrator, and humanitarian. Swaminathan was a global leader of the green revolution.
Last Updated: October 27, 2023
M.S. Swaminathan was an agricultural scientist and a pioneer of the ‘Green Revolution, passed away on 28 September 2023 at his residence in Chennai at the age of 98. His enduring contributions to agriculture and rural development have left an indelible mark on the nation’s history.
Born on August 7, 1925, in Kumbakonam, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan’s journey was deeply influenced by his father, M.K. Sambasivan, a surgeon, and Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals during the freedom movement. His passion for agricultural science led him to pursue higher studies in the field, ultimately changing the trajectory of Indian agriculture.
Dr. Swaminathan’s educational journey took him to prestigious institutions, including the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Cambridge University, and the University of Wisconsin. Armed with knowledge and a deep commitment to his homeland, he embarked on a lifelong mission to revolutionize agriculture.
His pivotal role in the ‘Green Revolution,’ a program that transformed India’s agriculture, cannot be overstated. Facing severe drought in the mid-1960s and a looming food crisis, Dr. Swaminathan collaborated closely with Union Agriculture Ministers C. Subramaniam and Jagjivan Ram. Through the application of chemical-biological technology, the ‘Green Revolution’ brought about a quantum leap in wheat and rice production, ensuring food security for millions.
Dr. Swaminathan’s numerous accolades include the Padma Shri (1967), Ramon Magsaysay award (1971), and Padma Bhushan (1972). He served as the Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), held key positions in the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, and even served as Deputy Chairman of the Union Planning Commission.
Between 1982 and 1988, he led the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, receiving global recognition for his contributions to agriculture. Upon returning to India in 1988, he established the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), a not-for-profit trust committed to leveraging modern science and technology for rural development.
In 2004, Dr. Swaminathan was appointed Chairman of the National Commission on Farmers, known as the Swaminathan Commission. The Commission’s recommendations, including a minimum support price at least 50% above the cost of production, continue to shape agricultural policies in India.
He was also a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 2007 to 2013 and received the first World Agriculture Prize in 2018.
While Dr. Swaminathan’s career was marked by unparalleled achievements, it was not without controversy. As head of the ICAR, he faced criticism and an unfortunate suicide of a senior agronomist. This led to reforms in the recruitment process and the establishment of the Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board.
Dr. Swaminathan’s legacy extends far beyond awards and positions. His enduring impact on Indian agriculture, rural development, and food security will be felt for generations to come. As the nation bids farewell to this visionary scientist, we remember his unwavering commitment to improving the lives and livelihoods of millions through sustainable and innovative agricultural practices.
The legacy of Dr. M.S. Swaminathan will continue to inspire future generations to work towards a greener, more food-secure India, in honor of the man who forever changed the face of Indian agriculture.