MS Swaminathan, Father of Green Revolution in India, passes away in Chennai at 98

The celebrated agriculture icon, who was being treated for age-related illness for quite some time passed away at his residence in Chennai.

BySouth First Desk

Published Sep 28, 2023 | 4:18 PM Updated Sep 28, 2023 | 4:34 PM

MS Swaminathan

Renowned agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan, who spearheaded the Green Revolution in India, passed away in Chennai on Thursday, 28 September.

He was 98 and is survived by three daughters, including Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the former chief scientist of the World Health Organisation.

The celebrated agriculture icon, who was being treated for age-related illnesses for quite some time, passed away on at 11.15 am at his residence in the Tamil Nadu capital.

Swaminathan leaves behind a rich legacy which would serve as a “guiding light to steer the world towards a safer and hunger-free future for humanity”, President Droupadi Murmu said as she condoled the demise of the renowned scientist.

Father of Economic Ecology

Swaminathan who founded the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai has been described by the United Nations Environment Programme as “the Father of Economic Ecology” acknowledging his leadership of the green revolution movement.

A staunch advocate of food and nutrition security, it was his pathbreaking work that warded off famine during the 1960s.

He has served as Director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (1961-72), Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (1972-79).

He was the first recipient of the World Food Prize (1987) for developing and spearheading the introduction of high-yielding wheat and rice varieties in India during the 1960s when that country faced the prospect of widespread famine.

According to the World Food Prize Foundation, wheat production doubled in just a few years, making the country self-sufficient and saving millions from extreme food deprivation.

He has received 84 honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the world. He is a Fellow of many of the leading scientific academies including the Royal Society of London and the US National Academy of Sciences.

‘A visionary who worked endlessly’

“The demise of Dr MS Swaminathan, an internationally renowned agricultural scientist, saddens me no end. A visionary who worked endlessly to achieve food security, he was rightly called the Father of Green Revolution that ensured our country’s self-reliance in food grains,” Murmu said in a post on X.

“He pioneered path-breaking research in the agriculture science for which he got a range of awards — from Padma Vibhushan to the prestigious World Food Prize. He leaves behind a rich legacy of Indian agriculture science which may serve as a guiding light to steer the world towards a safer and hunger-free future for humanity,” the President said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed Swaminathan saying his groundbreaking work transformed the lives of millions and ensured India’s food security.

Indian Agricultural Research Institute Director AK Singh said an era of agricultural research, education and extension marked by disruptive innovations has come to an end with the death of Swaminathan.

Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi, Chief Minister MK Stalin, and leaders of farmers’ bodies including PR Pandian condoled Swaminathan’s death.

The Congress party described him as the key scientific architect of the Green Revolution and hailed his contribution to the agriculture sector.

‘Transformed lives of millions’

Modi said on X: “Deeply saddened by the demise of Dr MS Swaminathan Ji. At a very critical period in our nation’s history, his groundbreaking work in agriculture transformed the lives of millions and ensured food security for our nation.”

Beyond his revolutionary contributions to agriculture, Dr Swaminathan was a powerhouse of innovation and a nurturing mentor to many. His unwavering commitment to research and mentorship has left an indelible mark on countless scientists and innovators.

“I will always cherish my conversations with Dr Swaminathan. His passion to see India progress was exemplary. His life and work will inspire generations to come. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti,” he said.

Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda expressed grief over the demise of Swaminathan and said he greatly benefited from his advice on many occasions.

Swaminathan who founded the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation here has been described by the United Nations Environment Programme as “the Father of Economic Ecology” acknowledging his leadership of the green revolution movement.

‘Ends an era of agricultural research’

Singh said: “The passing away of Prof. Swaminathan, ends an era of agricultural research, education and extension that was full of disruptive innovation. If God appears to the poor and hungry in the form of bread as said by Mahatma Gandhi, that God is Dr. Swaminathan who should be worshipped by every citizen while taking daily meals.”

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said Swaminathan made India self-sufficient in rice and wheat by the mid-1970s.

He has received 84 honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the world. He is a Fellow of many of the leading scientific academies including the Royal Society of London and the U S National Academy of Sciences.

AICC general secretary KC Venugopal said he was deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Swaminathan.

‘Transformed lives of millions’

“His contribution to Indian agriculture transformed the lives of millions. We are committed to taking his vision forward every opportunity we get,” he said.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed grief and said his contribution to India’s agricultural progress and economy is immense.

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said India will always remember the positive changes that Swaminathan brought to the country’s agriculture and farmers and his contribution to food security.

Swaminathan was a part of every key initiative connected to food security and agriculture and his stellar contributions are pioneering including the focus on millets for nutrition security as well.

Javier Perez de Cuellar, former Secretary General of the United Nations, said as “a living legend who will go into the annals of history as a world scientist of rare distinction”.

(With PTI inputs)