People’s Emperor who knew how to make rain: Prof M S Swaminathan
Chennai, October 19, 2016: On 13th October the King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away. He was a much loved President and was a stabilising force in Thailand. I wish to recall two instances where I had the personal privilege of getting to know him and admiring his vision. The first occasion was in 1974, when India was going through a serious drought. The King sent a message that he can help our country in the area of artificial rain making. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appreciated this gesture on the part of the King. A couple of scientists were sent to Thailand for training in the science and art of rain making. The second occasion was in the 80s when the King sent a message that we should find an alternative to poppy cultivation which is spreading in the country due to the highly remunerative drug trade. This is also true in other countries like Afghanistan where drug yielding crops find their ready market. I lead a team from the International Rice Research Institute to hold discussions with the King and to develop a strategy for an alternative cropping system. On the basis of a detailed study, a new cropping system was developed which will give stable and reasonable income. The King appreciated this programme very much and he said, that purely advice without an alternative cropping strategy will not yield the desired result. This new cropping system was supported by a project by the European Union and led to the gradual decline of poppy cultivation.
I am citing these two examples to show how the King was concerned with the problems of the people. Bhumibol Adulyadej will always remain in the history of Thailand as not only a people’s King but the King who illustrated the best that monarchy can offer in conferring political stability and economic progress. His daughter Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has visited MSSRF and she also inherited from her father the qualities of public service and people’s wellbeing. She was awarded the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development (2004).
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.