Men behind the Revolution

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M.S. Swaminathan is regarded as 'The Father of the Green Revolution' in India.

M.S.Swaminathan:(Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan is an Indian agriculture scientist, born on August 7,1925, in Kumbakanam, Tamil Nadu. He is the second of four sons of a surgeon. His ancestral home is the island village of Monkompu, Alleppey District, Kerala. He is known as “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 Swaminathan Reasearch Foundation, leading the 'Evergreen Revolution').

There was a lot more work to be done after the breakthrough in Green Revolution. 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 hardship. Swaminathan lobbied then-Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri (1904-1966). "He probably thought nothing could be worse," Swaminathan recalls. "Famine was imminent.There was a willingness to take risks." Later, Indira Gandhi (1917-84) bluntly asked him how India could be free of imports and gave Swaminathan a free hand to organize a new agricultural program. Today, India grows some 70 million tons of wheat a year (approximately), compared to 12 million tons in the early 60s.

"Importing food was like importing unemployment," he recalls. "Seventy percent of our people were employed in agriculture. We were supporting farmers in other countries."

C. Subramaniam was in 1965, the Union Minister for Agriculture. He had trudged a long road, as a Gandhi devotee, freedom fighter and as a member of India's Constituent Assembly. Most of all he was a modern mind and a man of action. Swaminathan was an entirely home-grown plant genetist of repute. He emerged as Subramaniam's able lieutenant. In 1996, Subramaniam took the politically bold decision of importing 18,000 tonnes of the dwarf wheat seeds of the Lerma Rojo 64A and Sonora 64 variety.

On the occasion of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, he said of Dr. Swaminathan: "The green revolution has been a team effort and much of the credit for its spectacular development must go to Indian officials, Organizations, Scientists and farmers. However, to you, Dr. Swaminathan, a great deal of the credit must go for first recognizing the potential value of the Mexican dwarfs. Had this not occurred,it is quite possible that there would not have been a green revolution in Asia".

On the occasion of the presentation of the First World Food Prize to Dr. Swaminathan in October 1987, Mr. Javier Perez de Cuellar - Secretary General of the United Nations, wrote: "Dr. Swaminathan is a living legend. His contributions to Agricultural Science have made an indelible mark on food production in India and elsewhere in the developing world. By any standards, he will go into the annals of history as a world scientist of rare distinction".