MANKOMBU Sambasivan Swaminathan (August 7, 1925 – September 28, 2023) will be remembered among the most influential scientists of the 20th century. His holistic approach recognised the importance of preserving biodiversity, protecting the environment, and addressing the socio-economic needs of farmers.
Among his most significant contributions was the emphasis on interdisciplinary research and collaboration. He advocated for the integration of scientific knowledge, traditional farming practices, and community engagement to create sustainable agricultural systems.
No debate on minimum support price (MSP) can be possibly held today without reference to his recommendations. MSP is the price fixed by the Government for 22 mandated crops along with the fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane. Thus, farmers are assured of a minimum cost of their produce if the open market prices are less than their input cost incurred.
Commission on farmers
Such remunerative prices were part of the reports of the National Commission on Farmers, chaired by Swaminathan. The commission submitted five reports between December 2004 and October 2006. The final report focused on reasons for famers’ distresses and the increase in their suicide. The findings and recommendations include credit and insurance, food security, employment, irrigation, productivity, among other issues of access to resources and social security entitlements.
Born in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, he went on to be a renowned agricultural scientist and geneticist who dedicated his life to improving the lives of farmers and ensuring food security.
He is hailed as the architect of the Green Revolution who helped save India from the era of famines, advocated agriculture focused on resource-poor farmers, and crusaded for conservation, even inspiring a ‘Noah’s ark’ for the world’s plants.
Swaminathan’s tireless efforts and visionary leadership have earned him several honours. He was named the first World Food Prize Laureate for developing and spearheading the introduction of high-yielding wheat and rice varieties into India during the 1960s.
He was conferred with the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1971, the Albert Einstein World Science Award in 1986, and the Padma Vibhushan in 1989. In 2007, Swaminathan was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
Apart from his scientific contributions, he was a champion of social justice, rural development, and equitable access to resources for marginalised communities. His leadership in promoting women’s participation in agriculture and advocating for the rights of smallholder farmers has been particularly influential.
His works focused on sustainable agriculture and climate change adaptation. He put emphasis on the importance of diversifying crops, conserving water resources, and developing climate-resilient farming practices to ensure food security in an uncertain future.
Swaminathan’s dedication to sustainable and equitable agriculture continues to inspire generations of scientists, policymakers, and activists, reminding us that the path to a better future begins with nurturing the earth and its people.
His life and work are a testament to the power of science and compassion to transform societies. He was an agronomist, agricultural scientist, plant geneticist, administrator, as well as a humanitarian. While the world grapples with the challenges of feeding the burgeoning population and mitigating climate change, the wisdom and vision of MS Swaminathan will forever remain relevant