Commitment to the agriculture sector and farmers, display of statesmanship cutting across political divides and honouring the contributions of southern India to nation-building are the major themes reflected in the awarding of the prestigious Bharat Ratna to former prime ministers Chaudhary Charan Singh and Narasimha Rao and architect of the Green Revolution MS Swaminathan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his government’s decision to bestow India’s highest civilian honour on Charan Singh, Narasimha Rao and MS Swaminathan on Friday.
“Narasimha Rao steered India through critical transformations and also enriched its cultural and intellectual heritage,” the PM said on X. “Rao’s visionary leadership was instrumental in making India economically advanced and laid a solid foundation for its prosperity, growth.”
Delighted to share that our former Prime Minister, Shri PV Narasimha Rao Garu, will be honoured with the Bharat Ratna. As a distinguished scholar and statesman, Narasimha Rao Garu served India extensively in various capacities. He is equally remembered for the work he did as… pic.twitter.com/lihdk2BzDU
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 9, 2024
“Bharat Ratna to Charan Singh dedicated to his incomparable contribution to country,” he posted on the microblogging site.
हमारी सरकार का यह सौभाग्य है कि देश के पूर्व प्रधानमंत्री चौधरी चरण सिंह जी को भारत रत्न से सम्मानित किया जा रहा है। यह सम्मान देश के लिए उनके अतुलनीय योगदान को समर्पित है। उन्होंने किसानों के अधिकार और उनके कल्याण के लिए अपना पूरा जीवन समर्पित कर दिया था। उत्तर प्रदेश के… pic.twitter.com/gB5LhaRkIv— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 9, 2024
“Swaminathan made monumental contributions to country in agriculture and farmers’ welfare,” Modi said in another post. “He played a pivotal role in helping India achieve self-reliance in agriculture and made outstanding efforts in modernising it”.
It is a matter of immense joy that the Government of India is conferring the Bharat Ratna on Dr. MS Swaminathan Ji, in recognition of his monumental contributions to our nation in agriculture and farmers’ welfare. He played a pivotal role in helping India achieve self-reliance in… pic.twitter.com/OyxFxPeQjZ— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 9, 2024
The government had earlier announced Bharat Ratna for former deputy prime minister and BJP stalwart LK Advani and former Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur.
Putting Farmers First
The awarding of the Bharat Ratna to farmer leader and former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh as well as agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan reiterates the Modi government’s commitment to the agricultural sector and the farmers.
Charan Singh was born on December 23, 1902 in Noorpur in Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh to a family of farmers. Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence, he entered the independence movement. After Independence, he associated himself with socialism in rural areas. He was the chief architect of land reforms in Uttar Pradesh and took a leading part in the formulation and finalisation of the Department of Redemption Bill 1939, which brought great relief to rural debtors.
In 2001, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government declared December 23, Chaudhary Charan Singh’s birth anniversary, to be celebrated as National Farmers’ Day. The decision was taken to recognise Chaudhary Charan Singh’s contribution to the upliftment of farmers and the development of the agriculture sector.
PM Modi has previously hailed Charan Singh as “a tall mass leader who dedicated his life to the welfare of farmers and the poor”.
MS Swaminathan, meanwhile, was the driving force behind the nation’s ‘Green Revolution’. The celebrated agriculture icon had passed away at the age of 98 in September last year.
“At a very critical period in our nation’s history, his groundbreaking work in agriculture transformed the lives of millions and ensured food security for our nation,” PM Modi had said in his condolence message. “Beyond his revolutionary contributions to agriculture, Dr Swaminathan was a powerhouse of innovation and a nurturing mentor to many. His unwavering commitment to research and mentorship has left an indelible mark on countless scientists and innovators.”
Born in Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu on August 7, 1925, Swaminathan played a significant role in changing the trajectory of the agriculture sector when farmers were dependent on archaic farming techniques.
Swaminathan’s research that began as a plant geneticist addressed the issue of food insecurity, helped small farmers increase their income by enhancing productivity. Eventually, a nation that once depended on American wheat to feed its people in the 1960s was transformed into a foodgrain surplus nation.
Two of the Bharat Ratna awardees, Narasimha Rao and Chaudhary Charan Singh, come from non-BJP backgrounds, indicating the Modi government’s non-partisan approach in awarding the civilian honour.
Paying tribute to Rao on his birth anniversary in 2022, PM Modi had said: “India is grateful to him for his rich contribution to national progress. He also made a mark as a great scholar and intellectual.”
Rao, a veteran Congress leader who served a full five-year term after taking over as prime minister in 1991, is credited with liberalising the Indian economy and effecting transformational changes.
Two of the awardees, Narasimha Rao and MS Swaminathan, hail from south India, a region with which the Prime Minister shares a deep connect. He has on numerous occasions hailed the contribution and expertise of scientists and leaders from southern India.