Professor MS Swaminathan is no longer with us. Our country has lost a visionary who brought revolutionary changes in India’s agricultural sector. We have lost a great man whose contribution to India will always be written in golden letters. Professor Swaminathan loved India and wanted our country and especially our farmers to live a prosperous life. He was academically brilliant and could have chosen any career, but he was so moved by the Bengal famine of 1943 that he decided that if there was one thing he would like to do, it would be to transform the agricultural sector. . At a very young age he came in contact with Dr. Norman Borlaug and understood his work deeply. In the 1950s, the United States requested him to join as a faculty, but he declined because he wanted to stay in India and work for the country.
Today, we all should think about those challenging circumstances decades ago, which Prof. Swaminathan faced boldly and took our country forward on the path of self-reliance and self-confidence. In the first two decades after independence, we were facing many challenges and one of them was food shortage. In the early 1960s, India was struggling with famine. Meanwhile, the strong commitment and vision of Professor Swaminathan ushered in a new era in the agriculture sector. His pioneering work in specific areas such as agriculture and wheat breeding led to a significant increase in wheat production. It was the result of such efforts that India transformed from a food-deficient country to a food-self-sufficient nation. Because of this brilliant achievement, he got the title of ‘Father of the Indian Green Revolution’, which is absolutely right.
India’s spirit of ‘can do, can do’ is reflected in the Green Revolution, that is, no goal is impossible. If there are crores of challenges before us, then there are crores of talented people who light the flame of innovation to overcome those challenges. Five decades after the start of the Green Revolution, Indian agriculture has become more modern and progressive than before, but the foundation laid by Professor Swaminathan can never be forgotten. Professor Swaminathan had also done effective research towards dealing with pests affecting potato crops. His research also enabled potato crops to withstand cold weather. Today the world is talking about millets or green grains as a super food, but Professor Swaminathan had encouraged the discussion about millets since the 1990s.
The scope of my personal interactions with Prof. Swaminathan was very wide. It started in 2001 after I took charge as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. In those days, Gujarat was not known for its agricultural potential like it is today. Droughts, devastating cyclones and earthquakes occurring every few years had badly affected the development journey of the state. During the same period, we had initiated the Soil Health Card. Our effort was to help our farmers understand the soil better and solve problems when they arise. In connection with this scheme, I met Professor Swaminathan. He appreciated this scheme and also shared his valuable suggestions for it. His support was enough to convince those who were skeptical about the plan. Ultimately this scheme marked the beginning of the success of the agricultural sector in Gujarat.
During my tenure as Chief Minister and even after I took over as Prime Minister, our talks continued. I met him at the International Agro-Biodiversity Congress in 2016 and the following year in 2017 I launched a two-part book series written by him. According to the book ‘Kural’, farmers are the axis around which the whole world revolves. It is the farmers who support everyone. Prof. Swaminathan understood this principle very well. Many people call him an “agricultural scientist”, i.e. a scientist of agriculture, but I have always believed that his personality was much more than that. He was a true “farmer scientist”, i.e. a farmer’s scientist. A farmer lived in his heart.
The success of their work is not limited to their academic excellence, it is clearly visible outside the lab, in the fields and fields. His work bridged the gap between scientific knowledge and its practical application. He always advocated sustainable agriculture, emphasizing the balance between human advancement and ecological sustainability. Here I would especially say that Prof. Swaminathan laid great emphasis on improving the lives of small farmers and extending the benefits of innovation to them. He was especially dedicated to improving the lives of women farmers. There is another aspect of Professor MS Swaminathan’s personality, which is very remarkable. He greatly encouraged innovation and mentorship. When he received the first World Food Prize in 1987, he used the prize money to establish a non-profit research foundation. Even today this foundation is doing extensive work in various fields. He has nurtured countless talents and instilled in them a passion for learning and innovation.
His life reminds us of the enduring power of knowledge, guidance and innovation in a rapidly changing world. Professor Swaminathan was also an institution builder. He is credited with establishing many such centers where vibrant research is being conducted today. For some time, he also held important responsibilities in the International Rice Research Institute based in Manila. The regional center of this institute in South Asia was opened in Varanasi in 2018. I will again quote the ‘Kural’ text to pay tribute to Prof. Swaminathan. It is written in it, ‘If the planners have determination, they will achieve the results they want.’ Prof. Swaminathan was such a legendary person who had decided at the very beginning of his life that he would strengthen agriculture and serve the farmers. He fulfilled this resolution in a very creative manner and with passion.
As we continue to move forward on the path of agricultural innovation and sustainability, Dr. Swaminathan’s contribution will continue to inspire and guide us. We must continue to reaffirm our commitment to the principles that he held dear. These principles include advocating for the interests of farmers, harnessing the benefits of scientific innovation to the roots of agricultural expansion, and promoting growth, stability and prosperity for future generations. I once again pay my humble tribute to Professor Swaminathan.