Father of India’s Green Revolution, MS Swaminathan, Dies at 98

In Memoriam: Dr. M.S. Swaminathan – The Visionary of India’s Green Revolution

By Vijay Jayaraj

There are some people who leave a lasting impression on this world. One of them is Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, who worked alongside Norman Borlaug to turn India into an agricultural haven. The legend who was instrumental in making India become a food-secure nation passed away today (28 September 2023) at age 98.

Dr. Swaminathan, often referred to as the “Father of the Green Revolution in India,” left an indelible mark on our India history, inspiring generations to come. His journey began in the realm of science and agriculture, a journey that ultimately reshaped the destiny of a nation grappling with food scarcity and hunger.

Born on August 7, 1925, in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu (my home-state in India), he went on to study agriculture and plant genetics, earning his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. Armed with knowledge, passion, and a deep sense of purpose, he returned to India to dedicate his life to addressing the pressing issue of food security.

He joined forces with another giant in agricultural science, Norman Borlaug, and together, they ushered in the Green Revolution in India. Their groundbreaking work in developing high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice played a pivotal role in increasing agricultural productivity and transforming India from a food-deficient nation into a self-sufficient one.

This achievement not only alleviated hunger but also paved the way for economic growth and prosperity. Me, my parents, and my grandparents, along with billions of people in India, are benefactors of his tremendous contributions.

He recognized that food security was not just about increasing crop yields but also about ensuring equitable access to food for all. His commitment to social justice and empowerment led to the development of programs that aimed to uplift small and marginalized farmers, making them active participants in the nation’s progress.

As a tireless advocate for the rights of farmers, Dr. Swaminathan’s leadership extended beyond the laboratories and into the corridors of power. He served as the Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and later as the Minister of Agriculture in India, where he continued to champion the cause of agriculture and rural development.

Dr. Swaminathan’s impact extended beyond India’s borders. His wisdom and guidance were sought by nations around the world facing similar challenges in agriculture and food security.

Today, as we bid farewell to this remarkable soul, we must remember and honor Dr. M.S. Swaminathan not only for his scientific achievements but also for his unwavering commitment to humanity. He leaves behind a legacy that will continue to inspire future generations of scientists, policymakers, and farmers to work towards a world where no one goes to bed hungry.

His vision, his compassion, and his dedication will forever remain an inspiration as we strive for a more food-secure world. Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, your legacy lives on, and you will be dearly missed but never forgotten.

This commentary was first published at CFACT, September 29, 2023.

Photo credit: Ministry of Science & Technology (GODL-India), GODL-India <https://data.gov.in/sites/default/files/Gazette_Notification_OGDL.pdf>, via Wikimedia Commons

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK and resides in India.

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