News18 » Blogs » India

Architects of Green and White Revolution deserve Bharat Ratna

E R Ramachandran

Updated: December 29, 2015, 3:16 PM IST
facebook Twitter skype whatsapp
There was a time when India was so poor that it could not feed most of its people. Failure of monsoon would often result in famine conditions. In 1967 after a drought following successive failure of monsoon, with acute short of foreign exchange India imported from USA on rupee payment wheat under Public Law 480 which came to be known as PL480. Hunger was compounded by humiliation as USA put lot of conditions on import of wheat which anyway later was found inedible for human consumption. That was the beginning of politics of hunger.

It was a collective humiliation of the whole country.

It was around that period the Green Revolution was started which enhanced the agriculture yield by improved technology. High-yielding varieties of seed of wheat and rice along with refined techniques in cultivation, improved fertilizers, newer irrigation techniques, continuous monitoring started yielding bumper crops which led to high volumes of food production in India. The High Yielding Variety (HYV) seeds along with drip irrigation improved farm efficiency enabling India to start building up buffer stocks. Gradually the tide turned and India became even self-sufficient and became an exporter of food grains.

Dr. MS Swaminathan who was a geneticist spearheaded the green revolution movement under Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). After the success of green revolution, he planned for sustainable development, especially environmentally sustainable agriculture without damaging the ecosystem. He is rightly referred to as the Father of Green revolution in India.

After the stupendous success, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh have become the major producers of wheat and rice whose output now far outstrips the capacity to handle storage and transportation. This sometimes results in woeful wastage of grains as States are unable to build enough storage silos.

Among the various prestigious positions occupied by Dr. Swaminathan in his illustrious career, one of them was as Director General of Rice Research Institute, Los Banos, Laguna, Phillippines. Secretary General of United Nations, Javier Perez de Cueller wrote of Dr. Swaminathan in 1987 when he was awarded the first World Food prize, ‘Dr. Swaminathan is a living legend. His contribution to Agricultural Science has made indelible mark on food production in India and elsewhere in the developing world. By any standard he will go into the annals of history as world scientist of rare distinction.’

Among the various awards conferred on Dr Swaminathan are the Padma Vibhushan in 1989, the First World Food Prize in 1987, and UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Award in 1999. Dr Norman Borlaug who received the Nobel Peace prize in 1970 was graceful in giving recognition to Dr Swaminthan’s contribution in the field of agriculture during his acceptance of award.

Even at the age of 90, he is active. He is involved in development of nutritious and resilient crops as part of Food Security Bill in 2013. He started MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Ecotechnology where biodiversity and development while preserving nature are his passion.

Time magazine once referred to Swaminathan as one of the 20 most influential Asians in Twentieth century along Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. In India the highest Bharath Ratna is awarded for individuals who have served the nation with distinction at the highest level which have had great impact on its people.

If there was an individual whose lifetime work was directly involved in turning the country from a deficient agricultural nation into a surplus one and raise the standard of living of our farmers it is Dr. Swaminathan, who turned 90 in August 2015. It will be a fitting tribute for the Padma Vibhushan awardee if the country honors him with a Bharath Ratna.

If green revolution was a phenomenal success there was another revolution waiting to happen to bring milk to our nutritionally deficient children.

India was perennially short of milk which directly affected growing children in need of dire nutrition. In 1970 the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) started the Operation Floods which turned the milk-deficient country to one of self sufficient and later to become the largest producer of milk in the world. Milk availability per person doubled in 30 years apart from being a crusader in social engineering. The brain and force behind operation floods was Dr. Verghese Kurien. Dr. Kurein recognized very early in order to make this sustainable, it needed a continuous involvement of villagers with supply of milk twice a day. Hence the Anand Milk Union Limited popularly known as AMUL was created which became the largest cooperative movement in the world. A national milk grid was created across 700 towns in India which daily directly bought milk from producers – mainly women from villages. The milk cooperative eliminated middlemen thus ensuring more money for villagers which directly helped raise their living conditions. It brought in its wake fair price for consumers and ensured milk was always available for a growing child. It was a Win-Win situation for both producer and consumer.

The project was scaled up in phases starting from 1970. By 1985 in the middle of phase II, an estimated 45000 village cooperatives functioning with 4,50,000 milk producers were supplying milk. By 1990 milk powder available was around 1,40,000 tons from a meager 22000 tons in 1970. By phase III there were 75000 milk cooperatives operating in the country. Apart from milk, animal husbandry, modern veterinary care for animals was available across the country.

Thus India had turned the corner from an anaemic milk deficient country to one of surplus, exporting its products and becoming the largest producer of milk in the world.

Equally importantly the owners were the cooperatives all over the country with women playing a major role in operating the cooperatives, a major boost for women emancipation in a country where a woman’s role was limited to the four walls. It gave a fillip to the economy of practically all homes in villages which directly helped in better living conditions, better health and education for children. In one stroke sluggish rural economy had leap-fogged to one of self-sustainable economy.

The driving force behind AMUL was Dr. Verghese Kurien who transformed the scene with innovation and throwing it open as cooperatives.

Apart from helping the country to become a major milk producer in the world, apart from ensuring every child can have access to daily milk, one of the most pertinent offshoots of AMUL experiment is it made a social change for rural empowerment of women across the country. For his lifetime work the architect of white revolution Dr. Kurien deserves to be honoured posthumously with the country’s highest award, the Bharat Ratna.

No doubt, much still needs to be done in terms of making available nutritional food, adequate calories for children to bring them into international standards. But the contribution made by Dr. MS Swaminthan and Dr. Verghse Kurien in the nascent state of agriculture in the country deserves to be remembered and recognised.
First Published: December 29, 2015, 3:16 PM IST

Live TV

Countdown To Elections Results
To Assembly Elections 2018 Results