The family is very happy and delighted with the honour, said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, former chief scientist of WHO and the daughter of noted agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan who was honoured with the Bharat Ratna today.
“Naturally we are very happy, delighted and feel honoured that he has been honoured with the highest civilian award of the country that is given to the country’s most eminent citizens. I think it’s a fitting tribute for somebody who spent his whole life working for the country. So it’s a very happy and wonderful day today,” she said.
The award comes just months after MS Swaminathan’s death in September 2023. “My father passed away just a few months ago and I’m sure that he would’ve been truly very, very happy if he had the news during his lifetime,” said his daughter.
“But it is what it is. It is a recognition of the work that he has done and I think more than anything else it’s a very strong signal that the country respects and rewards its scientists, especially agricultural scientists who are often not in the limelight but are so important – were in the past and will be in the future,” she added.
Is the award, announced just months ahead of the crucial 2024 elections, the BJP’s way of wooing the south? “Well, frankly I’m not even thinking about those things. I don’t want to comment on the politics here because I think it’s a tribute to an individual. It’s a tribute to my father and you know we have seen from childhood… He had an amazing ability – whether it was farmers in any part of the country or whether it was politicians or whether it was heads of state and Nobel laureates, he was equally at home in all of the settings and I think it was that special gift he had,” Dr Swaminathan said.
“When you look at the Padma awards, they come from all over India… My father never considered himself to particularly belong to any one state or community. I think he really was an Indian. He belonged to the Gandhian era. He grew up in the era of freedom struggle and for him, the country was above everything else,” she added.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Bharat Ratna for two former PMs – Charan Singh and PV Narasimha Rao – and MS Swaminathan, widely regarded as the Father of the Green Revolution in India.
The PM called it “a matter of immense joy” as he announced the highest civilian award for MS Swaminathan, and said the honour was being conferred on the scientist “in recognition of his monumental contributions to our nation in agriculture and farmers’ welfare”.