Bharat Ratna Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam passes away!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
Known as the people’s President and the “Missile Man” and who encouraged children and youth to dream big for bright future, the former Indian President Bharat Ratna Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has passed away on July 27, following a cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture in IIM-Shillong in North East India. Dr Kalam was hospitalized in a very critical condition but he could not survive. The missiles he developed to make India militarily strong fell silent too, as they could not save the precious life of their scientific mentor.
Visionary Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen (APJ) Abdul Kalam dreamt of equal opportunities for all and a developed India was born on 15 October 1931 in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, was an Indian scientist who ended his career as the 11th President of India from July 25, 2002 to July 25, 2007. Kalam came from a poor background and started working at an early age to supplement his family’s income. After completing school, Kalam distributed newspapers to contribute to his father’s income. In his school years he had average grades but was described as a bright and hardworking student who had a strong desire to learn and spend hours on his studies, especially mathematics. After completing his education at the Ramanathapuram Schwartz Matriculation School, Kalam went on to attend Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, then affiliated with the University of Madras, from where he graduated in physics in 1954. Towards the end of the course, he was not enthusiastic about the subject and would later regret the four years he studied it. He moved to Madras in 1955 to study aerospace engineering.
Kalam spent his growing years dreaming of conquering the space frontiers on the Arabian Sea. His dreams of the next two decades were mostly conjured up on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, where he test-fired a variety of short-, medium- and long-range conventional and nuclear-capable missiles for India. His interest in flying led to a degree in aeronautical engineering, and eventually to his supervising the development of India’s guided missile program. He went abroad to study only once, in 1963-’64, to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the USA. As president he visited Africa. He was against wasting nation’s resources on unnecessary foreign tours. However, Pratiba Patil who with criminal records succeeded Dr. Kalam as Congress nominee began her service to nation by visiting foreign countries. In fact, Mrs. Patil was made president by Congress party with a view to save her from any punishment.
Dr. Kalam spent the next four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and was intimately involved in India’s civilian space program and military missile development efforts. He thus came to be known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. He also played a pivotal organizational, technical and political role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974. After serving a term of five years, he returned to his civilian life of education, writing, and public service. He has received several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, though Indian regime has recently tried to belittle it by honoring its and corporate lords’ favorites with this award..
On 10 June 2002, the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which was in power at the time, expressed that they would propose Kalam for the post of President, and both the Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party backed his candidacy. After the Samajwadi Party announced its support for Kalam, the Congress candidate Narayanan chose not to seek a second term in office, leaving the field clear. He moved into the Rashtrapati Bhavan after he was sworn in as President of India on 25 July. Kalam was the third President of India to have been honored with a Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, before becoming the President. Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1954) and Dr Zakir Hussain (1963) were the earlier recipients of Bharat Ratna who later became the President of India. He was also the first scientist and the first bachelor to be Indian president. He did not have the support of the left parties, Shiv Sena, Congress party and UPA constituents, to receive a renewed mandate. Kalam declined to contest the 2012 presidential poll.
After leaving office, Kalam became a visiting professor at Indian Institute of Management Shillong, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and Indian Institute of Management Indore, honorary fellow of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram, a professor of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University (Chennai), JSS University (Mysore) and an adjunct/visiting faculty at many other academic and research institutions across India. He taught information technology at IIIT Hyderabad and technology at Banaras Hindu University and Anna University. He authored many books, read widely.
It was unfair that Kalam was frisked by airport security at the JFK Airport in New York in September 2011, which led to protests by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and an expression of regret by US Government. Kalam had previously been frisked by the ground staff of the Continental Airlines at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi in July 2009 and was treated like an ordinary passenger, despite being on the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security’s list of people exempted from security screening in India. Obviously, by insulting Dr. Kalam, India has also been insulted.
In 2011, Kalam, who probably viewed nukes as valuable assets, was criticised by civil groups over his stand on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, where Tamil Nadu government killed some of the protesters among fishermen without mercy, while he supported setting up of the nuclear power plant and sought popular support apart from government of TN never spoke with the local people. The protesters were hostile to his visit as they perceived to him to be a pro-nuclear scientist and were unimpressed by the assurance provided by him on the safety features of the plant.
A rare president of India Dr. Kalam replied to letters from the common people. As one of the few presidents to have touched the hearts of the poor children in the country, and since he also came from a poor background, he knew the power of education in changing one’s future. Dr. Kalam became the first president to visit the Line of Control (LoC) and address the troops at Uri, close to the border with Pakistan.
Dr. Kalam, who received several doctorates, awards for his honest and dedicated work in science and technology in promotion of nation building, also enjoyed writing Tamil poetry and playing the veenai, a South Indian string instrument. A religious person, Kalam could recite both the Holy Quran and the Bhagavad Gita. Kalam opened his palace to general public one month every year.
Indian government has announced an official mourning for 7 days. Kalam’s remains would be kept in New Delhi for public homage, before his body would be laid to rest to rest in his home town Rameswaram. May his life Hereafter also be fruitful!