prof-swaminathans-contributions-will-continue-to-inspire-and-guide-us

‘Prof. Swaminathan’s contributions will continue to Inspire and Guide us’

 

Context: A few days ago we lost Professor M.S. Swaminathan, a visionary who revolutionised agricultural science, a stalwart whose contribution to India will always be etched in golden letters.

 

About M.S. Swaminathan

 

  • He was born on 7th August, 1925, in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu.
  • Academically brilliant, he could have chosen any career, but he was so impacted by the Bengal famine of 1943 that he was clear that if there is one thing he would do, it would be to study agriculture.
  • At a relatively young age, he came in contact with Dr. Norman Borlaug and then started following his work in great detail. 
  • In the 1950s, he was offered a faculty position in the U.S., but he rejected it because he wanted to work in India.

 

Contributions of M.S. Swaminathan

 

  • In the first two decades since Independence, we were dealing with immense challenges and one of them was food shortages
    • In the early 1960s, India was grappling with the ominous shadows of famine and it is then that Professor Swaminathan’s unyielding commitment and foresight ushered a new era of agricultural prosperity
    • His pioneering work in agriculture and specific sectors like wheat breeding led to a significant increase in wheat production, thus turning India from a food-deficient country into a self-sufficient nation
    • His work with Norman Borlaug in developing high-yielding wheat and rice varieties, notably the semi-dwarf wheat varieties, revolutionised agriculture in India during the 1960s and '70s.
    • This tremendous achievement earned him the well-deserved title of “Father of the Indian Green Revolution”.
  • Over the years, he undertook pioneering research in combating parasites affecting potato crops
    • His research also enabled potato crops to withstand cold weather
  • Today, the world is talking about millets, or Shree Anna, as superfoods, but Professor Swaminathan had encouraged discourse around millets since the 1990s.
  • He was the Chairman of National Commission of Farmers and came up with the ‘Swaminathan Report’ which probed the causes of farm distress.
    • One of its recommendations, that Minimum Support Prices (MSP) should at least be 50% more than average production costs, continues to be a primary demand of farm unions across India.
  • During 2001, Gujarat was not known for its agricultural prowess. Successive droughts, a super cyclone, and an earthquake had impacted the growth trajectory of the State.
    • M.S. Swaminathan has shared his valuable inputs for the Soil Health Card, which enabled to understand the soil better and address problems if they arose. This would eventually set the stage for Gujarat’s agricultural success.
  • He also contributed in the global recognition of the 'Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere (Go MMB)' and Kerala's Kuttanad known for 'traditional cultivation of paddy below sea-level' as a globally important agricultural heritage site.
  • The success of his works is not restricted to their academic excellence; it lies in the impact they have had outside the laboratories, in the farms and the fields. 
    • His work narrowed the gap between scientific knowledge and its practical application
    • He consistently advocated for sustainable agriculture, emphasising the delicate balance between human advancement and ecological sustainability.
    • Professor Swaminathan’s special emphasis on improving the lives of the small farmers and ensuring they also enjoy the fruits of innovation. 
    • He was particularly passionate about improving the lives of women farmers.
  • He stands tall as a paragon of innovation and mentorship. When he won the World Food Prize in 1987, the first recipient of this prestigious honour, he used the prize money to establish a not-for-profit research foundation. Till date, it undertakes extensive work across various sectors
  • He was an institution builder as well, having to his credit many centres where vibrant research takes place. 
    • One of his stints was as Director, International Rice Research Institute, Manila
    • The South Asia Regional Centre of International Rice Research Institute was opened in Varanasi in 2018.

Conclusion

He has nurtured countless minds, instilling in them a passion for learning and innovation. 

In a rapidly changing world, his life reminds us of the enduring power of knowledge, mentorship, and innovation

 

Imp for: UPSC Prelims, UPSC GS Mains Paper III

Topic: Agriculture, Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology

 

 

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