A: The revolution was not about an evolutionary change, but a revolutionary change in food production. The movement came when India was undergoing a ship-to-mouth existence, when we had to wait for ships to dock so we could feed our population.
The movement infused confidence among farmers and gave them an incentive to produce more. The revolution was like a symphony orchestra with scientists and technologists, input officers, government supports in the form of support price and the enthusiasm of farmers.
Q: Four decades later, India is still facing food shortage. Do we need another green revolution?
A: In 1950, our population was 350 million. Today, we are 1,100 million. We have failed to promote non-formal employment and around 60 percent of our population depends on agriculture. What we need is not another green revolution but an evergreen revolution increased productivity in food production without harming the ecological balance.
Q: After 59 years of Independence, a majority of our population is illiterate. For any country to progress, it needs education. What are your views on this?
A: We at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation are aware of this, and that’s why we started gyan choupal, a knowledge centre in villages. According to Mission 2007, every village is to get a knowledge centre. The Government of India is taking this idea forward by establishing community service centres under the name of Grameen Gyan Abhiyaan.
For example, we can help fishermen by informing them where to go for fishing through GPS.
Q: What is the status of agricultural research in India?
A: We have a huge infrastructure with 50 agriculture universities and 100 ICR institutions. We have to make then dynamic, so that they can attend to the real problems of farmers.
Q: How far has the poor farmer been able to reap the benefits of the revolution?
A: Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have benefited from the revolution, but dry land farmers haven’t benefited much. We need to help them with yield enhancing and risk minimising technologies to produce marketable surplus. We should have a Special Agriculture Zone on the lines of the Special Economic Zone.
Q: What is your vision for India?
A: I wish everyone would follow Swami Vivekananda’s dictum,‘‘This life is short, the vanities of the world are transient, but they alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.’’ If all of us think for the society and the country, all our problems will be solved.
Q: Despite your many achievements, do you have any unfulfilled dreams?
A: In our country, many go to bed hungry and 53 percent of children are under nourished. I wish to see these problems solved in my lifetime.
Q: From Kumbakonam to the Rajya Sabha - how do you feel?
The New Indian Express