Biography of Prof M S Swaminathan by Dr N Parasuraman released
Remarks by Prof M. S. Swaminathan
I am grateful to Dr Parasuraman and Prof Thandavan for choosing my life and work for a detailed study leading to a Ph.d. thesis. I am also grateful to H E the Governor and the other speakers for their kind remarks
In 1989, my wife and I shifted our residence to Chennai for the purpose of establishing a Research Centre designed to link science and society and to promote a pro-nature, pro-poor, and pro-women orientation to technology development and dissemination. I was invited by the then Director of IIT to serve as Visiting Professor. I then met Dr Rajeswari Mahalingam and Thiru N Parasuraman and started the work of MSSRF with their help. Even then I found Thiru Parasuraman to be highly dedicated and careful worker. He also gave great importance to education and ran an Night School for Dalit Children.
The idea of MSSRF was to fill a major gap in the existing research approach namely, inadequate attention to anticipatory and participatory research. The idea was to attend in an integrated way the coastal ecosystem since they did not receive the same attention as terrestrial ecosystem.
I would like to cite a few examples where there has been success in influencing both technology and public policy
Technology : attention was given to mangrove ecosystems. A Joint-Mangrove Management System was developed on the model of the Joint-Forest Management System. The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve was developed into a biosphere trust so that the local communities and forests and fisheries departments can manage the ecosystem in a mutually supportive manner.
Anticipatory research was undertaken to breed varieties which can help farmers to cope with the impact of climate change particularly temperature and sea level
Participatory research was undertaken with local tribal families in Kolli Hills, Koraput and Wayanad for conserving agrobiodiversity and for converting biodiversity hotspots into happy spots.
Public Policy : it is only synergy between technology and public policy that we help to achieve the desired goals. Hence MSSRF has given particular attention to promoting appropriate public policies. A few successful examples are the following.
Farmers’ Rights – a draft legislation was prepared which gave attention to breeders and farmers’ rights in an integrated way leading to the approval by Parliament of a Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act. This is the only piece of legislation of its kind in the world.
Integrated coastal system management – government adopted the principle of integrated coastal zone management all over the country inorder to pay concurrent attention to the landward and seaward sides of the coast.
Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana, Nutri-farms, Pulses Villages, and Village Knowledge Centres – which were started by MSSRF but became national programmes with central government support.
Another recent example of the impact on policy is the approval by the Government of Tamil Nadu for including all salt pan workers under the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme so that their health problems such as high rate of cataract, skin ulcers, and high blood pressure can be addressed. This decision came from the work of MSSRF at Vedaranyam where in 1930, Rajaji and Sardar Vadarathnam Pillai started a Salt Satyagraha on the model that Mahatma Gandhi’s salt satyagraha at Dandi.
6. The work on the conservation on mangrove ecosystems had a good impact not only in Tamil Nadu, where the mangrove forests provided a relief against Tsunami, but also in Andhra Pradesh (Krishna and Godavari mangrove ecosystems), Odisha and Paschim Bangla (Sunderbans).
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.