Pongal greetings - Implications for action: Prof M S Swaminathan

Chennai, January 13, 2017: My best wishes for a very happy Pongal to all the people of our country. Although Pongal is celebrated largely in Tamil Nadu, its significance is common to all people. For example, Pongal provides an opportunity for recognising the contributions of sunlight, green plants and farm families to sustainable food and livelihood security. In Countries in Northern Latitude where the Sun is not to be seen for several months together, people appreciate the value of sunlight. We are fortunate to be blessed with sunlight throughout the year, as a result of which we can practise multiple cropping and associated systems of crop production such as mixed farming involving crop, livestock and fish, and multilevel farming involving agro-forestry. Green plants convert sunlight into food through photosynthesis and sugarcane, which is chosen for special worship during Pongal, is extremely efficient in converting sunlight into sugar. This is because sugarcane is characterised by the C4 pathway of photosynthesis which implies a very efficient system of solar energy utilisation. Ultimately it is the farm men and women who cultivate the green plants and convert them into food. So on Pongal day, we should recall with gratitude the blessings we have in the form of abundant sunlight, a wide variety of green plants and hardworking farm families. Pongal is therefore an opportunity for both rejoice and respect for farmers, who are in distress currently due to shortage of rains. They should particularly be helped to take advantage of the availability of sunlight throughout the year by making production possible when rains come.