Dr Surinder (Suri) Sehgal, a visionary, institution builder, agricultural entrepreneur, and founder of S M Sehgal Foundation (India) and Sehgal Foundation (USA) has been given the prestigious Dr. M S Swaminathan Award for Leadership in Agriculture for 2022. The award is presented annually to an eminent agricultural expert, whose contributions toward creating greater food security and poverty alleviation have made an impact on farmers and national agriculture.
The Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS), a well-known Think Tank based in the Pusa Campus, New Delhi, instituted this award in 2004 in honour of Dr. M S Swaminathan, a doyen of Indian agriculture. The first recipient was Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug who received it from former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. The second recipient was World Food Laureate Dr. Gurdev Khush, presented by former Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. Twelve eminent agricultural leaders have received this award so far.
Throughout his career, Dr. Suri Sehgal was a global leader in the development and spread of the hybrid seed industry worldwide and helped build the Indian seed sector through the establishment of Proagro Group of seed companies (now Bayer) and Hytech Seed India based in Hyderabad.
S M Sehgal Foundation (SMSF) work, under Dr. Sehgal’s mentorship since 1999, began in just four villages in the Mewat region of Haryana, and now reaches more than 4.2 million people in 2,040 villages so far in twelve states of India.
SMSF has been instrumental in improving availability, access, and quality of water; improved farming practices and farmer income; promoted local participation, especially women, in government programs; empowered village youth, especially girls, with digital and life skills learning; transformed school environments; and continues to expand their reach to empower rural India.
A short film on Dr. Sehgal’s life and his transformational impact on farmers and rural communities in India and elsewhere was shown to an impressive gathering of more than 100 dignitaries.
The event was graced by Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, MSSRF chairperson, who joined online to convey the blessings of Dr. M S Swaminathan to Dr. Sehgal. The citation was read by Dr. Gurbachan Singh, TAAS vice chairman and trustee. The award was presented by eminent maize breeder, World Food Laureate, and previous recipient of this award, Dr. S. K. Vasal, who successfully led the quality protein maize (QPM) breeding program at CIMMYT, Mexico.
In his award acceptance speech, Dr. Sehgal shared about the journey he covered as a plant breeder and in social development. He said, “Throughout my entire career in plant science and agriculture business management, I have felt an imperative to address world hunger, create food security, and promote biodiversity—a vision exemplified by Dr M S Swaminathan for whom this award is named.”
Dr. Suri Sehgal also expressed his gratitude to TAAS for conferring this prestigious Dr. M S Swaminathan award, and his thanks to all who helped him on his journey from plant scientist to philanthropist, especially his wife Edda.
The award function was concluded with a vote of thanks by Dr. Bhag Mal, TAAS secretary.