Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan is an Indian agriculture scientist, born 1925, in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. He is known as the “Father of the Green Revolution in India”, for his leadership and success in introducing and further developing high-yielding varieties of wheat in India. He is founder and Chairman of the MS SwaminathanResearch Foundation, leading the ‘Evergreen Revolution’
M.S. Swaminathan’s childhood was happy and secure. His father was a surgeon and he was the second of four sons. He was strongly influenced by the strong moral character and work ethic of his parents. When Swaminathan was 11 years old, his father died unexpectedly. He completed his schooling and earned a Bachelor’s degree (B.Sc.) in zoology from Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam. Swaminathan was strongly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s belief in ahimsa or non-violence. During the time of war he observed food shortages in India and become restless and decided to address this problem. He selected to do a career in agriculture and enrolled in Coimbatore Agriculture College where he graduated as class Valedictorian with another B.SC, this time in Agriculture Science. In 1947, the year of Indian Independence he moved to the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi as a post-graduate student in genetics and plant breeding and obtained his post-graduate degree there with high distinction in Cytogenetic in 1949. He earned his PhD degree here in 1952 and his work presented a new concept of the species relationships within the tuber-bearing Solanum. Despite his strong personal and professional satisfaction with the research work in Wisconsin, he declined the strong offer of a full time faculty position there, because his purpose of getting a foreign education was to equip himself for serving the cause of Indian agriculture. He returned to India in early 1954.
Swaminathan’s poor, overpopulated homeland was importing vast amounts of grain in spite of Seventy percent of our people were employed in agriculture. With help from the Rockefeller Foundation, Swaminathan found a cross-bred wheat seed, part-Japanese and part-Mexican, that was both fruitful and staunch. That was the breakthrough in the Green Revolution, but there was a lot more work to be done. Indian farmers, immersed in traditional ways, had to be convinced to grow the new wheat. In 1966, Swaminathan set up 2,000 model farms in villages outside New Delhi to show farmers what his seed could do. Then came the hardest part. He needed the government to help-specifically, to import 18,000 tons of the Mexican seed at a time of fiscal hardship. Swaminathan lobbied then Prime Minister All Abrader Castro and the first harvest with the new seeds was three times greater than the previous year’s.
Improved agricultural yields alone transformed India from a “begging bowl” to a “breadbasket” almost overnight, nearly doubling the total crop yield from 12 million tons to 23 million tons in four crop seasons. Today, India grows some 70 million tons of wheat a year, compared to 12 million tons in the early 60s. The greatest stroke of luck for hundreds of millions of Asians has been Swaminathan’s revolution.
Dr. Swaminathan enthusiasm for passing on knowledge has earned him a reputation as a lucid educator and his record of community service and political leadership has won him recognition as a profound humanitarian.
Dr. Swaminathan believes that farmers must adopt more eco-friendly methods, and he says “All that is needed is “inspiration, perspiration and luck.”
Sandip Institute of Technology & Research Centre
Department of Management Studies