Agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan, who passed away recently, worked non-stop – even during the weekends. “The place was Pusa Institute, Delhi, and our house was open to everyone – faculty and students. People used to come with personal problems even, and our mother (Mina Swaminathan) used to listen to them,” recalled Soumya Swaminathan, his daughter and Chairperson of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).
Speaking at ‘Life and Work of M.S. Swaminathan’, a panel discussion organised by the Chennai International Centre at the Madras School of Economics on Friday, she said: “At one point, my younger sister got very fed up and would fib to send people away since he didn’t have time for us even on Sundays. One time, she told someone he had gone to the wheat fields though it was not the season for wheat.”
Responding to a question, Dr. Swaminathan, said the Foundation would continue with its pro-nature, pro-poor, and pro-women approach. It would, however, incorporate advances in technology and continue with its work.
Distinguished scientist P.C. Kesavan said he had been associated with Professor Swaminathan for over 60 years and he adhered to two principles of Mahatma Gandhi – Sarvodaya, which is development for everyone, and Anthyodaya, which is to give priority to persons who are the most hungry.
“Before I left for Canada, he invited me over to his home and hosted me for dinner.” By the time he returned to India, Mr. Kesavan said the professor had transformed the country from a begging bowl to a breadbasket. In 1968, he wrote that exploitative agriculture should come to an end and other varieties of rice and wheat needed to be preserved and grown. He wanted Green Revolution to become ‘ever-green revolution’.
M.R. Subramani, Commodities Editor, Businessline,who moderated the programme, said he and the professor shared the same surname, Mankombu, which is a village near Changanacheri and Alapupuzha in Kerala. He recalled how Swaminathan had said with climate change, rice would be the saviour crop. For the work that he had done, he should be awarded a Bharat Rathna and it was high time that research in food and agriculture be recognised with a Nobel Prize.
Earlier, former IAS officer C. Chandramouli led the audience in paying homage to the professor.