When MS Swaminathan's generosity surprised a school PTA in Kuttanad

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Dr MS Swaminathan. File photo: Manorama

Alappuzha: Noted agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan, who is a member of the renowned Mankombu family based here, always liked to be called the 'son of the soil'. For the most part of his life he worked for the cause of the distressed farmers in Kuttanad.

The alumni, parents, and teachers of Mankombu Avittom Thirunal Government Vocational Higher Secondary School remember the great scientist with gratitude as he breathed his last in Chennai early today.

Swaminathan, who accorded great importance to education, once surprised his village folks by generously donating Rs 50 lakhs to renovate the school, which was in shambles then.

“It was back in 2012. The school building was in a bad condition. We, somehow, wanted to renovate it. The school’s Platinum Jubilee was nearing, and we wanted to celebrate the occasion. Hence, we decided to invite Dr M S Swaminathan as the Chief Guest,” Jayan Champakulam, then President of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA), told Onmanorama.

M S Swaminathan was then serving as a Rajya Sabha MP. The PTA decided to seek the allocation of a small fund to carry out the repair works of the school building.

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A file photo of Avittom Thirunal Government Vocational HSS in Mankombu. Former PTA president Jayan Champakulam (inset).

“The house of M S sir’s father is based out here. And sir used to occasionally arrive here and very much liked the village. We managed to contact him through his cousin Krishna Das. We openly told him about the school’s condition. He asked us to speak to his Personal Secretary, and he promised to allocate Rs 25 lakh,” Jayan went back the memory lane.

On April 17, 2012, M S Swaminathan arrived and was accorded a grand reception as the villagers made a beeline to have a glimpse of the great scientist.

Swaminathan, who inaugurated the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, then surprised one and all through his generous act.

“We were expecting him to announce Rs 25 lakhs from his MP fund to renovate the school building. However, he announced Rs 50 lakh during the speech, taking all of us by surprise. He also harped on the importance of education and exhorted students to study well,” Jayan, the State Co-ordinator of Integrated Rural Technology Centre (IRTC), a research division of the Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad, said.

MS Swaminathan's ancestral house at Mankombu in Kuttanad. File photo: Manorama

Swaminathan also contributed another Rs two lakh and asked the school authorities to institute a scholarship that should be provided to the best talents every year to encourage the student community to excel in education.

“We renovated the school building with the fund. The school PTA continues to honour bright students every year by bestowing them the scholarship,” said Jayan, who ran a shop near the ancestral house of Swaminathan.

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