Dr. M. S. Swaminathan that I Knew

Dr. M. S. Swaminathan an eminent and highly decorated agricultural scientist died on 28 September 2023. He was 98 years old and was ailing for many years.

I met Dr. Swaminathan (MSS) for the first time in 1981 in New Delhi. I had just returned from U.S. and had joined the Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) which was started by my father-in-law, Mr. B. V. Nimbkar.

MSS and Mr. Nimbkar were friends and had known each other since early 1970s. MSS also inaugurated our Institute building in Phaltan in 1980 and had helped us in many agricultural related issues both as a scientist and as an administrator in ICAR.

So in 1981 when I had gone to Delhi for some work my father-in-law B. V. Nimbkar advised me to go and meet MSS. At that time MSS was a member of Planning Commission. We had a cordial meeting and he suggested that we should work on various agricultural related technologies.

After that I met him in many meetings, fora and even visited his Swaminathan Foundation in 1998 in Chennai when it was in nascent stages. He very graciously and personally took me around showing the buildings and the rainwater harvesting system that was installed in it. We were also together in Jamnalal Bajaj Awards committee in different sections and so met once a year during the awards function. He was always cordial and soft spoken.

He was a soft-spoken person, very sharp and had tremendous grasp of fundamentals and a scholarly person. In 1985 we were together in Pune attending a national meet on biomass energy. After his chief guest lecture, I saw MSS sitting the whole day listening to lectures and taking notes. To me that was a sign of a good scientist who was interested in finding out what others have to present. Normally VIPs give their talk and leave. That was also his desire for scholarship and graciousness.

Similarly in 2011, I was invited to be the chief guest at a Seminar in New Delhi. The seminar was on food security. Dr. M. S. Swaminathan could not come in the morning and hence he gave his keynote speech in the afternoon. He was also gracious enough to mention what I had said in the morning.

He had clarity of thought and was able to grasp the subject and present it in a succinct manner. That was the reason why he was able to be close to the politicians since he could explain complex issues clearly and succinctly.

People call him the Father of Green Revolution in India, but he was one of three architects of the revolution. Others were Shri. C. Subramanian the former Agriculture Minister of India and Shri. B. Sivaraman the Cabinet Secretary to Government of India. Though Swaminathan got the Mexican seed but the funds and resources were provided in the timely manner by Shri. Subramanian and Shri. Sivaraman. All three of them working in tandem created the revolution.

One of the most important things that MSS did when he was in the GOI was to get recognition for agriculture and agricultural scientists. He got them Government awards, raised their status in the eyes of government and general public. This helped improve the morale of agricultural scientists.

He was a nominated Rajya Sabha Member and a member of various Government of India committees. The last major assignment that he took was the Chairmanship of Farmers Commission which was set up by Government of India in 2004. The report had flaws and was criticized. Probably that is the reason why it was never implemented.

MSS was mired in quite a few controversies. People accused him of fabricating and falsifying the data. Reading about the whole issue now and in hindsight one can conjecture that he could have handled it more properly by being humble enough to admit his mistake and withdraw the paper. It is also quite probable that he was subject to attacks by people who were jealous of his green revolution success.

Nevertheless his legacy of scholarship is continuing now in his Swaminathan Foundation by his distinguished and talented daughters.


More by :  Dr. Anil Rajvanshi

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