The man who saved millions from famine

August 19, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 06:10 am IST - CHENNAI:

It was a team led by former Union Minister C. Subramaniam that ushered in Green Revolution

In the early 1960s, when the country was short of foodgrains and we were forced to import wheat from the U.S., a group of agricultural scientists and bureaucrats led by the former Union Minister for Food and Agriculture C. Subramaniam steered India towards self-sufficiency in food production.

It was in the Kharif season of 1966 when farmers sowed high-yielding dwarf varieties on one million acres, and half a million acres in the Rabi season (October-March) in wheat that the Green Revolution happened, recalls J. Veeraraghavan, former secretary, Ministry of Human Resources Development, who was Secretary and chief administrative officer of the National Seeds Corporation at that time.

The short varieties were introduced as they could take more nitrogen-based fertilizers, thus ensuring higher yields — thrice that of the native varieties. This was necessary to meet the food requirement of India’s growing population. A report by the Ford Foundation in 1959 on the country’s food crisis set the warning bells off and 1966 was supposed to be the year by which the crisis would mature when India’s population would touch 480 million. “I remember my father sowing dwarf wheat seeds in the gardens of his official residence and trying out the crop. He did it in the midst of stiff opposition from many quarters,” recalls S.S. Rajasekar, son of C. Subramaniam, popularly known as CS.

Though there was opposition from within the government and from the communist party to CS’s agriculture policy that said if production had to increase, it was essential to ensure that the farmer was assured of an economic price.

“The most intense policy struggle on the price front was between the Food Ministry on one hand and the Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission,” writes CS in volume II of his memoirs, Hand of Destiny, The Green Revolution . However, when Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister in January 1966, she asked him to proceed with his policy with greater vigour.

Political opposition

While CS dealt with political opposition on the one hand, he was working with a hand-picked team of agricultural scientists and government officials to ensure increase in food production. They were mostly from what formed the Madras Presidency. G.V. Chalam, general manager of the National Seeds Corporation, and M.S. Swaminathan were the agricultural scientists, who brought in the seeds. They were awarded the Padma Sri in 1967 in recognition of their work, says Mr. Veeraraghavan.

Sivaraman, secretary, Ministry of Food, and the Joint secretary Ramamurthy too were Tamils.

Amrik Singh Cheema, who was Director of Agriculture in Punjab and then went to Delhi as Commissioner of Agriculture, Government of India, used his expertise in agricultural extension and took the wheat seeds to farmers. In the golden jubilee year of the Green Revolution, C. Subramaniam’s contribution was recognised again by the Cheema Trust. His son recently received CS’s life-time achievement award for agriculture.

“In a year or two, Mr. Subramaniam announced that we had reached self-sufficiency in food production, which was no mean feat. He had ensured supply of fertilizers, seeds and other inputs to farmers by ensuring the cooperation of the State governments too,” said Jagdeep Cheema, Mr. Amrik’s son.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.