Intro: Today hunger is not a natural disaster. It is a disaster caused by human behaviour, which is why Dr Swaminathan has boldly declared that it can be solved. Problems caused by human beings can be solved by human beings only. Dr Swaminathan continues to find ways to assist poor farmers so that they can help themselves.
Children do you know who Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan is? He is known as the “Father of Green Revolution” in India and is one of the word’ s leading agricultural scientists.He is the person behind the successful ‘Green Revolution’ in India between 1960 and 1982. Swaminathan has made outstanding contributions in the field of conservation of plant genetic resources , manipulation of genes to improve the quality , quantity and stability of wheat, rice and potatoes. He introduced the dwarf wheat in India and initiated high yielding varity programme.
Swaminathan’s books include:
Dr Swaminathan feels that people are the most important resource in the elimination of poverty. He asserts that it is possible to eliminate hunger. But there is a condition: We can only do it if the more fortunate people, especially the leaders of the world, put these words of Gandhi into action: “Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you have seen, and ask yourself if the steps you contemplate are going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore to him control over his own life and destiny?”
Today hunger is not a natural disaster. It is a disaster caused by human behaviour, which is why Dr Swaminathan has boldly declared that it can be solved. To him, this problem which is caused by human beings can be solved by human beings only.
MS Swaminathan was born in Kumbakonam on August 7, 1925. He was the second son of surgeon , Dr MK Sambasivan and Parvati Thangammal Sambasivan. MS Swaminathan learnt from his father, “that the word 'impossible' exists mainly in our minds and that given the requisite will and effort, great tasks can be accomplished.” A sense of service to one's fellow man was thus ingrained in him early.
After his father's death the 11, year old Swaminathan was looked after by his uncle, MK Narayanaswami, a radiologist. He attended the local high school and later the Catholic Little Flower High School in Kumbakonom, from which he matriculated at the age of 15. He then went to finish his undergraduate degree at Maharajas College in Trivandrum, Kerala (now known as University College, Thiruvananthapuram). He studied there from 1940–44 and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology.
Swaminathan decided to pursue a career in agricultural sciences. He got himself enrolled in Tamil Nadu Agricultural University from where he graduated as valedictorian with another Bachelor of Science degree, this time in Agricultural Science. He explained this career decision thus: “My personal motivation started with the great Bengal famine of 1943, when I was a student at the University of Kerala. There was an acute rice shortage, and in Bengal about 3 million people died from starvation. All of our young people, myself included, were involved in the freedom struggle, which Gandhi had intensified, and I decided I should take to agricultural research in order to help farmers produce more.”
In 1947, the year of Indian independence he moved to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi as a post-graduate student in genetics and plant breeding. He obtained a post-graduate degree with high distinction in Cytogenetics in 1949. He wrote the Union Public Service Commission exam and qualified for the Indian Police Service.
He chose to accept the UNESCO Fellowship to continue his IARI research on potato genetics at the Wageningen Agricultural University, Institute of Genetics in the Netherlands.
Here he succeeded in standardising procedures for transferring genes from a wide range of wild species of Solanum to the cultivated potato, Solanum tuberosum. In 1950, he moved to study at the Plant Breeding Institute of the University of Cambridge School of Agriculture. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in 1952, for his thesis, “Species Differentiation, and the Nature of Polyploidy in certain species of the genus Solanum– section Tuberarium.” His work presented a new concept of the species relationships within the tuber-bearing Solanum.
Swaminathan then accepted a post-doctoral research associateship at the University of Wisconsin, Department of Genetics to help set up a USDA potato research station. He has worked worldwide in collaboration with colleagues and students on a wide range of problems in basic and applied plant breeding, agricultural research and development and the conservation of natural resources.
Dr Swaminathan is a prolific scientific researcher and a writer. His scientific papers are in the fields of crop improvement , cytogenetics , genetics and phylogenetics.
In addition he has written a few books around the general theme of his life's work, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture for alleviation of hunger.
Whenever his achievements are praised, Dr Swaminathan replies that increased agricultural production is the result of farmers' efforts. He remarks, “The urban public seldom recognises that we live in this world as guests of green plants and of the farmers who cultivate them. . . . Unfortunately, the well-fed do not seem to be very concerned with the hunger of other people. . . . Most people fear that 'if others get more, I will get less' . . . a fear of having to share power and resources. We need to show that helping the weak become strong solidifies the whole community. . . . The prospect for a world without hunger is a glorious legacy given to our contemporary world.”
Dr Swaminathan continues to find ways to assist poor farmers so that they can help themselves. He believes that development should not produce winners and losers; instead, it should benefit all. He has also proposed the formation of community food banks and an International Bank for Nutrition for All.
In 1988, he established the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), which has made the promotion of “biovillages” in every region as one of its main projects. Dr Swaminathan received the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize,1961;the Birbal Shani Medal,1965;the PadmaShri in 1967;the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1971;the Padma Bhushan in 1972 and Padma Vibhushan in 1988.