Thursday, November 30, 2023

Iconic agricultural scientist Swaminathan passes away

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M S Swaminathan, renowned agricultural scientist and a life long crusader against hunger who bet on sustainable farming passed away here on Thursday.

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

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

The celebrated agriculture icon, who was being treated for age-related illness for quite some time passed away today at 11.15 AM at his residence here.

Condolences poured in with President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailing Swaminathan’s yeoman service to the nation.

Murmu said Swaminathan left behind a rich legacy which would serve as a “guiding light to steer the world towards a safer and hunger-free future for humanity”.

Modi said his groundbreaking work transformed lives of millions, ensured India’s food security.

Indian Agricultural Research Institute Director A K 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 R N Ravi, Chief Minister M K Stalin, leaders of farmers’ bodies including P R 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.

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 H D Deve Gowda expressed grief over the demise of Swaminathan and said he was greatly benefited from his advice on many occasions.

Singh said: “In passing away of Prof. Swaminathan, ends an era of agricultural research, education and extension that was full of disruptive innovation. If God appears to poor and hungry in 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 president Mallikarjun Kharge said Swaminthan was the key architect of India’s Green Revolution.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said Swaminathan’s steadfast commitment to revolutionising India’s agriculture turned it into a food surplus country.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said Swaminathan made India self-sufficient in rice and wheat by the mid-70s.

AICC general secretary K C Venugopal said: “His contribution to Indian agriculture transformed the lives of millions. We are committed to take his vision forward every opportunity we get,” he said.

Tamil Nadu Governor Ravi praised Swaminathan as the “builder of modern Bharat.”

Tamil Nadu CM Stalin said: “Deeply saddened to hear the passing away of eminent agro scientist Thiru M S Swaminathan. His pioneering work in the field of sustainable food security has had a profound impact worldwide.”

Karanataka 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.

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

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 green revolution movement.

He was the first recipient of 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 U S National Academy of Sciences.

He was a former Rajya Sabha member (2007-13).

He was also Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture (1979-80), Acting Deputy Chairman and later Member (Science and Agriculture), Planning Commission (1980-82) and Director General, International Rice Research Institute, the Philippines (1982-88).

During 2010-13, he chaired the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) for the World Committee on Food Security (CFS). He also chaired the Task Force set up by the Ministry of External Affairs to oversee the projects undertaken in Afghanistan and Myanmar in the field of agriculture.

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”.

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