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  • Context (PIB | IE | TH): The PM announced that Dr MS Swaminathan, known for his pivotal role in the Green Revolution, will be conferred the highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna.

Significance of MS Swaminathan

  • Called the Father of the Green Revolution in India.
  • Helped India achieve self-reliance in agriculture during challenging times (1960’s-70’s).
  • Efforts towards modernising Indian agriculture.
  • Ensured the nation’s food security and prosperity.
  • He recommended that the Minimum Support Price should be at least 50 per cent more than the weighted average cost of production.

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Early life

  • Born in Kumbakonam, Madras Presidency, on August 7, 1925.
  • The experience of the Bengal famine in 1943 during the Second World War motivated him to commit his life to ensuring the food security of India.
  • In 1944, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Madras.
  • Later, he moved to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi to study genetics and plant breeding.
  • In 1949, he obtained a post-graduate degree in cytogenetics.
  • He returned to India in 1954 after completing the Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1952 & post-doctoral research associateship at various universities in abroad.
  • He died on September 28, 2023, in Chennai at the age of 98.

His contribution towards Agricultural research

  • The first attempt to develop high-yielding varieties: He started working on transferring genes for fertiliser response from Japonica varieties to Indica varieties.
  • Indica and japonica rice are two main subspecies of Asian varieties.
  • Indica rice is mainly cultivated in tropical and subtropical environments at lower latitudes or altitudes.
  • On the other hand, japonica rice is grown mainly in more temperate environments at higher latitudes or altitudes.
  • Developing semi-dwarf wheat varieties using mutagenesis: it involves exposing plants to chemicals or radiation to lower the plant height (it didn’t work). The lowering of plant heights led to a simultaneous reduction in the size of the grain-bearing panicles.
  • His relationship with other stalwarts helped him achieve the Wheat Revolution in India.

American scientist Orville Vogel

  • He played a role in developing a dwarf wheat called Gaines, which had a high yield.
  • It contained dwarfing genes from a dwarf wheat called the Norin-10.
  • Swaminathan contacted him to get help for developing a ‘dwarf wheat’ in India.
  • Since Vogel was unsure of the wheat’s potential in the Indian climate, he advised Swaminathan to approach Norman Borlaug.
  • Norman Borlaug had incorporated the same dwarfing genes through Vogel’s lines into his spring wheat varieties in Mexico that were better suited for India.

Norman Borlaug

  • Swaminathan along with Norman Borlaug toured India and worked seriously on dwarf wheat breeding programme in 1963.
  • Within five years, there was what was called the Wheat Revolution. Between 1964 and 1968, annual production of wheat increased from about 10 million tonnes to about 17 million tonnes.
  • The government declared India self-sufficient in food production in 1971.
  • Indira Gandhi, the then PM, released a special stamp to mark the achievement.

Why was it needed?

  • Post-independence, Indian agriculture was not very productive.
  • The nation lacked the resources to modernise the sector.
  • Crops necessary for staple foods also had to be imported from countries like the US.
  • India was leading a ship-to-mouth existence.
  • India was dependent on PL480 wheat from the US. For example, in 1966, 10 million tonnes of PL480 wheat were imported.

Noteworthy job listings

  • After 1971, he was appointed as the director-general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and a secretary to the Government of India.
  • He was made the first Asian director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines in 1982.
  • In 1984, he became the president and vice-president of the IUCN and World Wildlife Fund.
  • He was the chair of the National Commission on Farmers constituted in 2004.
  • He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by former (late) President APJ Abdul Kalam, where he served from 2007 to 2013.

Awards, contributions, and achievements

  • He was awarded the first World Food Prize in 1987, and the prize money was used to set up the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.
  • He established the Nuclear Research Laboratory at the IARI.
  • He played a key role in setting up of the
    • International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in India.
    • The International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (Bioversity International) in Italy.
    • The International Council for Research in Agro-Forestry in Kenya.
  • Swaminathan co-chaired the United Nations Millennium Project on hunger from 2002 to 2005.
  • He was the head of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (2002 – 2007).

Recognitions

  • 1961: Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award.
  • 1965: Mendel Memorial Medal from the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences.
  • 1971: Ramon Magsaysay Award.
  • 1986: Albert Einstein World Science Award.
  • 1987: The first World Food Prize.
  • 1991: Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.
  • 2000: Four Freedoms Award.
  • 2000: Planet and Humanity Medal of the International Geographical Union.
  • 2024: Bharat Ratna.
  • He was also awarded the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan awards & the Indira Gandhi Prize.
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