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M.S. Swaminathan (1925-2023): Father of ‘Green Revolution’

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  • Published
    7th Oct, 2023


Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, widely recognized as M.S. Swaminathan, the renowned agricultural scientist and a pivotal figure in India's 'Green Revolution,' has peacefully passed away at the age of 98, due to age-related ailments.

Who was M.S. Swaminathan (1925-2023)?

  • Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan (S. Swaminathan), is known as the Father of Green Revolution in India.
  • Born in Kumbakonam on August 7, 1925 to M.K. Sambasivan, a surgeon, and Parvati Thangammal, Swaminathan had his schooling there.
  • His keen interest in agricultural sciencecoupled with his father’s participation in the freedom movement and Mahatma Gandhi’s influence inspired him to pursue higher studies in the subject.
  • Education:
    • He got two undergraduate degrees, including one from the Agricultural College, Coimbatore (now, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University).
    • He obtained a postgraduate degree in cytogenetics in 1949 from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi.
    • He earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Cambridge.
    • He did his post-doctoral research at the University of Wisconsin. 
  • Important Positions held by M.S. Swaminathan:
    • In 1954, Dr. Swaminathan joined the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), Cuttack and later, IARI.
    • In 1966, he became IARI Director, the post he held till 1972.
    • He became Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
    • In 1979, he was made the Principal Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.
    • In 1980, he was appointed Member (Agriculture, Rural Development, Science and Education), Union Planning Commission, and, for a few months, he served as the Deputy Chairman of the body.
    • Swaminathan was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 2007 to 2013.

Swaminathan Commission

  • In 2004, the Union government made Dr. Swaminathan chairman of the National Commission on Farmers.
  • The panel submitted five reports in two years to the Centre. Its main recommendation was that minimum support price should be at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production.
  • Awards & Recognition: Swaminathan was a recipient of the Padma Shri in 1967. He was chosen for the Ramon Magsaysay award for community leadership in 1971. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in January 1972.
    • In 1987, he became the first to get the World Food Prize and the first foreigner to receive the Golden Heart Presidential Award of Philippines.
    • The first World Agriculture Prize, instituted by the Indian Council of Food and Agriculture, was given to him in October 2018.

M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF)

  • In 1988, he established a not-for-profit trust — MSSRF — with the proceeds he got from the Food Prize.
  • The Foundation, which began functioning in Chennai since 1989, aims to accelerate use of modern science and technology for agricultural and rural development to improve lives and livelihoods of communities.

What is the role of Dr. Swaminathan in Green Revolution?

  • Background: In 1960s, India was on the verge of a mass famine. 
  • Green Revolution turned the northern states of Punjab and Haryana into breadbasket for wheat and rice production, helping low-income farmers.
  • Swaminathan worked closely with two Union Agriculture Ministers, C. Subramaniam (1964-67) and Jagjivan Ram (1967-70 & 1974-77) for the success of the ‘Green Revolution’.
  • Swaminathan along with Norman Bolaug and other scientists developed high-yielding varieties (HYV) of wheat and later, promoted sustainable development which he called, the 'evergreen revolution'.
  • Green Revolution paved the way for quantum jump in productivity and production of wheat and rice through adaptation of chemical-biological technology.

Important Revolutions

White Revolution (Operation Flood, 1970s-1990s)

  • Father of Revolution: Dr. Verghese Kurien
  • Period: 1970-1996

Grey Revolution (Wood Production/ Fertilisers)

  • Father of Revolution: M.S. Swaminathan 
  • Period:  1960-70

Blue Revolution (Fish Production) 

  • Father of Revolution: Dr. Arun Krishnan
  • Period:  1973-2022

Golden Revolution (Jute Production)

  • Father of Revolution: Nirpakh Tutaj
  • Period: 1990s

Pink Revolution (Onion Production)

  • Father of Revolution: Durgesh Patel
  • Period:  1970s

What are high-yielding varieties of crops?

  • High-yielding varieties of crops (HYVs), produced a higher yield of crop per hectare in comparison to traditional variants.
  • These variants are produced using a combination of traditional breeding steps and biotechnology, which includes genetic diversity.
  • The resulting HYVs are usually disease-resistant and have a higher tolerance to conditions like
  • IR8, a variety of rice developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) that could produce as much as seven tonnes of rice per hectare compared to traditional seeds that could produce only two tonnes per hectare, was one of the main HYVs grown during the Green Revolution.
  • This “miracle rice” was first introduced in the Philippines and was produced by crossing a tall high-yielding strain from Indonesia called Peta with a sturdy dwarf variety from China called Dee-Geo-woo-gen.
  • Other HYVs grown during the Green Revolution in India included Kalyan Sona and Sonalika varieties of wheat which were considered to be of good “chapati-making” quality and had a “amber grains and good yield potential” (few varieties of Mexican dwarf wheat which were procured earlier were rejected because of their red colour).

Important Scientific Terms 

Yield gap


  • The difference between the potential or maximum achievable yield of a crop and the actual realised yield for a given area is called the yield gap. During the Green Revolution, one of the main areas of focus was the increase productivity from existing farmlands using HYVs in order to tackle the threat of famine.



  • It is the study of chromosomes (DNA-carrying structures) and how they related to hereditary characteristics and traits.
  • Application: Identifying traits such as resistance to diseases, drought, and pests in crops

Hexaploid wheat (Triticum aestivum)


  • Hexaploid wheat contains six sets of chromosomes and is among the most widely cultivated cereal crops across the world.
  • It is also called “bread wheat”.
  • Dr. Swaminathan is associated with research on the cytogenetics of hexaploid wheat.

Carbon fixation


  • It is the process by which crops capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into organic compounds like sugars and starches, mostly through photosynthesis.
  • Grass species either use C3 or C4 classes of photosynthetic pathway for carbon fixation.
  • The C3 pathway, also called the Calvin cycle, is slower in comparison to C4 – also called the Hatch and Slack pathway.
  • C3 cycle of fixation occurs when the tiny pores of surface of leaves (in the mesophyll cells) are open, while C4 occurs in both mesophyll cells and bundle sheath cells (that surround the veins of the plant), making photosynthesis more efficient.

How Green Revolution transformed India?

  • Before Green Revolution
  • At independence, India had only 15% area under irrigation and the rest was rain-fed.
  • Chemical fertilisers were hardly used as there was no manufacturing in the country and foreign exchange was so scarce that import of fertilisers was not considered prudent.
  • The food grains investigation commission (1949) argued for better seeds, chemical fertilisers and investment in irrigation. These were later to become the building blocks of green revolution.
  • After Green Revolution
  • Green revolution made India a food secure nation. It led to high productivity of crops through adapted measures, such as:
    • increased area under farming
    • double-cropping, which includes planting two crops rather than one, annually
    • adoption of HYV of seeds
    • highly increased use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides
    • improved irrigation facilities
    • improved farm implements and crop protection measures
  • The success of India’s green revolution proved that science, coupled with good policy, efficient bureaucracy, support of political bosses and co-operative federalism in real sense could defeat the Malthusian predictions of hunger and famine.

The side effects of the Green Revolution

  • Despite its landmark role in achieving food sufficient in India, the Green Revolution has been criticised on multiple counts, such as benefiting the already prosperous farmers as it was introduced in states with higher productivity.

Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan's life and contributions serve as a profound testament to his unwavering dedication to enhancing agriculture, guaranteeing food security, and leaving a lasting imprint on the welfare of individuals in India and globally. His enduring and impactful legacy as a scientist, agricultural visionary, and compassionate advocate continues to resonate.

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