M.S. Swaminathan India’s Farming Hero of agriculture who passed away

M.S. Swaminathan India's Farming Hero
M.S. Swaminathan India’s Farming Hero

Honoring the Legacy of M.S. Swaminathan India’s Farming Hero

Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, or M.S. Swaminathan, was an Indian hero of agriculture who passed away in Chennai on September 28, 2023, at the age of 98. His journey and contributions are remarkable.

A Family of Accomplished Individuals

Swaminathan had three daughters who are accomplished in their own right – Soumya Swaminathan, the Chief Scientist of the World Health Organization; Madhura Swaminathan, an economics professor at the Indian Statistical Institute in Bangalore, and Chair of MSSRF; and Nitya Rao, the Director of NIESR, East Anglia University, UK. Sadly, his wife, Meena Swaminathan, the distinguished Chairperson of M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), passed away in March 2022.

Early Education and Passion

Born in Kumbakonam on August 7, 1925, Swaminathan initially went to school there. His love for agriculture and the influence of his father’s participation in the freedom movement and Mahatma Gandhi’s principles inspired him to study agriculture seriously. Otherwise, he might have become a police officer, a path he had qualified for by the late 1940s. By that time, he had already acquired two bachelor’s degrees, one of them from the College of Agriculture, Coimbatore (now Tamil Nadu Agricultural University).

In 1949, after completing his post-graduation in Genetics from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, he pursued a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree from the University of Cambridge. That’s where he met his wife, who was studying there. Subsequently, he conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Wisconsin. In July 1966, he became the Director at IARI, serving until 1972. It was during his long tenure here that he earned great recognition.

Architect of Indian Agriculture

He eventually moved through his promotions to become the ICAR’s Director General. He was chosen to serve as the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation’s Secretary in 1979. He was nominated to the Planning Commission in 1980, when Indira Gandhi was re-elected as prime minister, and became in charge of several of fields, including agriculture, rural development, science, and education.

Between 1982 and 1988, he led the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. In 1988, upon his return to India, he had received numerous awards and honors abroad. In 1987, he became the first person to receive the World Food Prize, and the first foreigner to receive the Golden Heart Presidential Award in the Philippines. Two years later, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian award.

The Green Revolution and Controversies

The Green Revolution was greatly influenced by Swaminathan, currently he left behind some controversial legacy. He came under fire for what some perceived as the negative outcomes of the Green Revolution, which included environmental harm and the exclusion of small and underprivileged farmers from the advantages of high-yield technologies. In response, he promoted the idea of the “Evergreen Revolution,” promoting agricultural productivity without harming the environment or the livelihoods of those in poverty.

A Visionary Philanthropist

As soon as he got back to India in 1988, he used the World Food Prize winnings to start the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), a nonprofit organization. The foundation, which has been in existence in Chennai since 1989, was founded to promote modern science and technology for agriculture and rural development in order to enhance the standard of life and livelihoods for communities.

In November 2004, the Government of India appointed Dr. Swaminathan as the Chairman of the National Commission on Farmers. The Swaminathan Commission recommended that the minimum support price for agricultural products should be at least 50% more than the comprehensive cost of production.

A Lasting Legacy

The contributions made by M.S. Swaminathan to agriculture and his idea of sustainable development are still motivating. His theories have influenced agriculture, and his legacy exists in the minds of those who want to improve the world through just and sustainable farming methods.



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Honoring the Legacy of M.S. Swaminathan: India’s Farming Hero