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Dr Swaminathan, scientist who crafted India’s food self sufficiency dies at 98

Ziraat Times Web Desk

Dr M S Swaminathan, the agriculture scientist who transformed India from a net importer of food grains to rank among the largest producers of wheat and rice, died early morning in Chennai on Thursday. He was 98.

Swaminathan is credited for the “Green Revolution” that pushed up India’s cereals production to unprecedented levels. While working with the government, Swaminathan served in various capacities across departments.

He was director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI, 1961-72), director general of ICAR and secretary to the Indian government, department of agricultural research and education (1972-79), 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).

Role in Green Revolution

The Green Revolution, which began 1965-66, was launched in response to rising population that saw per capita annual food grain production fall to 151 kilogram (kg) in 1965-66 and 1966-67 from almost 190 kg in 1961-62.

The revolution revolved around five main pillars: strong research and development; price assurance to producers through a robust system of minimum support price; inter and intra year price stability through open market operations; maintenance of buffer stocks, and distribution of food grains through an effective public distribution system.

As India was planning to raise its food production, the International Maize and Wheat Research Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico, developed a semi-dwarf disease-resistant, high-yielding variety of wheat. A similar breakthrough in rice was made at the International Rice Research Institute in Philippines.

When Swaminathan was director of IARI, India was desperately looking to raise grain production.

With the assistance of CIMMYT director and Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, India quickly adopted high-yielding varieties of wheat and then later of rice.

The entire northwest region of the Indo-Gangetic plains, comprising Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, with their robust irrigation systems and affinity for farming were picked as early adopters for the new yields.

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