The man behind the Green Revolution
Dr MS Swaminathan
MANKOMBU Sambasivan Swaminathan was born on August 7, 1925 in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. This famous geneticist is known as the man behind India’s ‘Green Revolution’, a programme, which revolutionised India’s farming scenario by introducing high yielding crops. The Time magazine placed him in the Time’s 20 list of most influential Asian people of 20th century. He is the founder and chairman of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.
His physician father was an ardent follower of Gandhiji and it instilled a sense of patriotism in him. In college, he rejected more lucrative professions and studied agriculture. He almost became a police officer, but a 1949 fellowship to study genetics in the Netherlands changed his career path. In 1952, he earned his Ph.D in genetics from Cambridge University, then did further studies at the Wisconsin University. There he turned down a Professorship. He was clear about coming back to India and work here for the betterment of our country’s poor food scenario. He nurtured a vision to see a world devoid of hunger and poverty and advocated the cause of sustainable development. He also emphasised on preservation of biodiversity. Swaminathan brought into India seeds developed in Mexico by the US agricultural guru Norman Borlaug and after cross-breeding them with local species, created a wheat plant that yielded much more grain than traditional types. Scientists at International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) accomplished the same miracle for rice. Imminent tragedy turned to a new era of hope for Asia, paving the way for the Asian economic miracle of the 1980s and 90s. Today, India grows around 70 million tones of wheat a year, compared to 12 million tones in the early 60s.
He served as the Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural research from 1972 to 1979 and became Union Minister for Agriculture from 1979 to 1980. He served as director General of the IRRI and became President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1971.