Context: Renowned agricultural scientist Dr. M.S. Swaminathan passed away on September 28 at the age of 98.
About Dr. M.S. Swaminathan:
- Dr. M.S. Swaminathan was born on 7 August 1925 in Kerala.
- A plant geneticist by training, he made a stellar contribution to the agricultural renaissance in the country and is popularly known as the Father of the Green Revolution in India.
Contributions of Dr. Swaminathan:
1. Increase in wheat production:
- He played a pivotal role in introducing semi-dwarf Mexican wheat strains, Sonora 64 and Lerma Rojo 64 to Indian fields.
- He along with experts at the erstwhile Planning Commission put together a policy to subsidize fertilizers and power while expanding irrigation cover to promote the dwarf wheat variety, utilizing British-era water canals in Punjab and Haryana.
- This led to a significant increase in wheat production, thus turning India from being dependent on humiliating food donations to feed its population to being a self-sufficient nation.
- In the early 1960s, India’s wheat and rice production was just 10-12 million tonnes (MT) and 35-36 MT, respectively, forcing massive grain imports that crossed 10 MT in 1966-67.
- India had signed off on an agreement with the US called the “Public Law 480” to qualify for food aid. This food assistance was a political hazard because the aid came tied with conditions.
- Following the successful green revolution, by the end of the 1960s, India’s wheat production crossed 20 MT.
2. Increase in Rice production:
- He introduced the fertiliser-responding high-yielding VARIETY of “Indica” rice from the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.
- He worked in the indica-japonica rice hybridization programme for transferring genes from the relatively non-lodging and fertiliser-responsive ‘Japonica’ rice varieties to indigenous ‘Indica’ races.
- He pioneered the development of popular basmati rice varieties — culminating in the Pusa Basmati variety in 1989, which was the world’s first semi-dwarf, high-yielding basmati variety.
3. Sustainable agriculture:
- He consistently advocated for sustainable agriculture, emphasising the delicate balance between human advancement and ecological sustainability.
- He had forewarned farmers in 1968 not to treat the productivity leap as an “evergreen revolution” by overusing subsidised agricultural chemicals which would ruin soil health.
4. Advocacy for Farmers’ welfare:
- As the chairman of the National Commission on Farmers in 2004, he advocated for fair minimum support prices for crops. He recommended that MSP for crops be at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production, ensuring fair compensation to farmers.
- He played a pivotal role in developing the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001.
5. Mainstreaming gender considerations in Agriculture:
- He advocated the empowerment of farm women in the areas of land and water rights, access to technology, credit and insurance and the ability to market their produce at a remunerative price.
- His efforts to empower women farmers helped shape India’s Mahila Sashaktikaran Yojana.
- S.S. Bhatnagar Award for his contribution to biological sciences (1961)
- Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1971)
- Albert Einstein World Science Award (1986)
- First World Food Prize (1987)
- Padma Vibhushan (1989)
- Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development (2000)
- Mahatma Gandhi Prize of UNESCO (2000)