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Chief Guest

Prof M S Swaminathan

Hon’ble Member of Parliament & Chairman, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai
13th Mahaveer Award - 2010
Chief Guest Flower

Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan (born 7 August 1925) is an Indian geneticist and international administrator, renowned for his leading role in India's Green Revolution, a program under which high-yield varieties of wheat and rice seedlings were planted in the fields of poor farmers. Swaminathan is known as the "Father of Indian Green Revolution" for his leadership and success in introducing and further developing high-yielding varieties of wheat in India. He is the founder and chairman of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. His stated vision is to rid the world of hunger and poverty. Swaminathan is an advocate of moving India to sustainable development, especially using environmentally sustainable agriculture, sustainable food security and the preservation of biodiversity, which he calls an "evergreen revolution."

From 1972 to 1979 he was director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. He was Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture from 1979 to 1980. He served as Director General of the International Rice Research Institute (1982–88) and became president of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 1988.

In 1999, Time magazine placed him in the 'Time 20' list of most influential Asian people of the 20th century.

M. S. Swaminathan was born in Kumbakonam on 7 August 1925. He was the second son of surgeon Dr. M.K. Sambasivan and Parvati Thangammal Sambasivan. M.S. Swaminathan learnt from his father, "that the word 'impossible' exists mainly in our minds and that given the requisite will and effort, great tasks can be accomplished." Surgeon M.K. Sambasivam, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, took the lead in Kumbakonam in "burning his foreign clothes," a symbolic act in support of the Swadeshi movement: which emphasized the use of Indian rather than foreign-made clothes, and handloomed rather than mill-spun cloth. The political purpose of the swadeshi movement was to free India from dependence on foreign imports and to protect village industry. His father led in opening the temples to Dalits, part of the temple entry movement of the Indian independence movement in Tamil Nadu, and in eradicating filariasis in Kumbakonom, an area long infected with the dreaded disease[citation needed]. The sense of service to one's fellow man was thus ingrained in him early.

After his father's death when he was 11, young Swaminathan was looked after by his uncle, M. K. Narayanaswami, a radiologist. He attended the local high school and later the Catholic Little Flower High School in Kumbakonom, from which he matriculated at age 15.Coming from a family of doctors, he naturally took admission in a medical school. But, when he witnessed the Great Bengal famine of 1943, he decided to devote his life for getting rid of hunger from India. He was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi while he took this decision. He simply switched from the medical field to the agricultural field. He then went on to finish his undergraduate degree at Maharaja's College in Trivandrum, Kerala (now known as University College, Thiruvananthapuram). He studied there from 1940–44 and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology.

M.S. Swaminathan is married to Mina Swaminathan, whom he met in 1951 while they were both studying at Cambridge. They live in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. They have three daughters and five grandchildren. Their daughters are Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the Deputy Director General of World Health Organization, Dr. Madhura Swaminathan, who is a Professor of Economics at the Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore and Nitya Swaminathan, a Senior Lecturer in Gender Analysis and Development at the University of East Anglia. Swaminathan and Mina have 5 grandchildren.

Swaminathan then decided to pursue a career in agricultural sciences. He enrolled in Madras Agricultural College ( now the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University ) where he graduated as valedictorian with another Bachelor of Science degree, this time in Agricultural Science. He explained this career decision thus: "My personal motivation started with the great [Bengal famine of 1943], when I was a student at the University of Kerala. There was an acute rice shortage, and in Bengal about 3 million people died from starvation. All of our young people, myself included, were involved in the freedom struggle, which Gandhi had intensified, and I decided I should take to agricultural research in order to help farmers produce more."

In 1947, the year of Indian independence he moved to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi as a post-graduate student in genetics and plant breeding. He obtained a post-graduate degree with high distinction in Cytogenetics in 1949. He wrote the Union Public Service Commission exam and qualified for the Indian Police Service.

He chose to accept the UNESCO Fellowship to continue his IARI research on potato genetics at the Wageningen Agricultural University, Institute of Genetics in the Netherlands. Here he succeeded in standardising procedures for transferring genes from a wide range of wild species of Solanum to the cultivated potato, Solanum tuberosum. In 1950, he moved to study at the Plant Breeding Institute of the University of Cambridge School of Agriculture. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in 1952, for his thesis, "Species Differentiation, and the Nature of Polyploidy in certain species of the genus Solanum – section Tuberarium." His work presented a new concept of the species relationships within the tuber-bearing Solanum. His Cambridge college, Fitzwilliam, made him an Honorary Fellow in 2014.

Swaminathan then accepted a post-doctoral research associateship at the University of Wisconsin, Department of Genetics to help set up a USDA potato research station. Despite his strong personal and professional satisfaction with the research work in Wisconsin, he declined the offer of a full-time faculty position, returning to India in early 1954.

Swaminathan has worked worldwide in collaboration with colleagues and students on a wide range of problems in basic and applied plant breeding, agricultural research and development and the conservation of natural resources.

He holds more than 50 honorary Doctorate degrees from universities around the world.

National Awards

  • He has been honoured with several awards in India for his work to benefit the country.
  • Karmaveer Puraskaar Noble Laureates, March,2007 by iCONGO- Confederation of NGOs.
  • Dupont-Solae Award for his contribution to the field of food and nutrition security 2004
  • Life Time Achievement Award from BioSpectrum 2003
  • Indira Gandhi Gold Plaque by the Asiatic Society for his significant contribution towards human progress. 2002
  • Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development "for his outstanding contribution in the domain of plant genetics and ensuring food security to hundreds of millions of citizens in the developing world." 2000
  • Lokmanya Tilak Award by the Tilak Smarak Trust, in recognition of his contribution to the green revolution in India and for his outstanding scientific and environmental works. 2001
  • Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development in recognition of creative efforts toward promoting international peace, development and a new international economic order; ensuring that scientific discoveries are used for the larger good of humanity, and enlarging the scope of freedom. 2000
  • Millennium Alumnus Award by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University 2000
  • Prof P N Mehra Memorial Award 1999
  • Legend in his Lifetime Award by the World Wilderness Trust- India 1999
  • Dr. B.P. Pal Medal for unique contributions to agricultural research and development of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, India 1997
  • V. Gangadharan Award for outstanding contributions to National Development 1997
  • Lal Bahadur Shastri Deshgaurav Samman 1992
  • Dr. J.C. Bose Medal, Bose Institute 1989
  • Krishi Ratna Award for "devotion to the cause of agroscience, and for being the benefactor of the farming community," instituted by the Bharat Krishak Samaj (Indian Farmer's Society)/World Agriculture Fair Memorial Trust Society, and presented by president Giani Zail Singh of India 1986
  • Rathindranath Tagore Prize of Visva Bharati University 1981
  • R.D. Misra Medal of the Indian Environmental Society 1981
  • Barclay Medal of the Asiatic Society for contributions to genetics 1978
  • Moudgil Prize of the Bureau of Indian Standards for contributions to standardisation 1978
  • Birbal Sahni Medal of the Indian Botanical Society for contributions to Applied Botany 1965.
  • Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award for contributions to Biological Sciences 1961
  • Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration of the Indian National Congress

International Awards

  • He has been honoured with recognition from several international organisations for spreading the benefits of his work to other countries.
  • UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Gold Medal for his outstanding work in extending the benefits of biotechnology to marginalised and poverty-stricken populations in developing countries and in securing a sound basis for sustainable agricultural, environmental and rural development 1999
  • Henry Shaw Medal awarded by the Board of Trustees of the Missouri Botanical Garden in consideration of important service to humanity through emphasis on sustainability in agriculture – USA 1998
  • Ordre du Merite Agricole, Govt of France to honour services of the highest quality rendered to the cause of agriculture 1997
  • Highest award for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, Govt of China for outstanding contributions to the lofty cause of environmental protection and development, and for his signal accomplishments in the field of international cooperation 1997
  • Global Environmental Leadership Award "for encouraging village-level responses to environmental issues" by the Climate Institute 1995
  • World Academy of Art and Science 1994
  • Asian Regional Award by the Asian Productivity Organization APO 1994
  • Charles Darwin International Science and Environment Medal 1993
  • Commandeur of the Order of the Golden Ark of the Netherlands 1990
  • The VOLVO Environment Prize for his outstanding research and devoted work in turning Indian food production from a deficit to a much increased supply. 1990.
  • Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) international award for significant contributions to promoting the knowledge, skill, and technological empowerment of women in agriculture and for his pioneering role in mainstreaming gender considerations in agriculture and rural development 1985.
  • Bicentenary Medal of the University of Georgia, U.S.A. 1985
  • Bennett Commonwealth Prize of the Royal Society of Arts for significant contributions to Household Nutrition Security 1984
  • Mendel Memorial Medal of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences for contributions to Plant Genetics 1965