Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, one of the great persons in India, born on 15 October 1931 to a Tamil Muslim family in Rameswaram in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. His father’s name was Jainulabudeen, a boat owner, and his mother Ashiamma, a housewife.
End Of An Era: ‘Missile man’ APJ Abdul Kalam Passes Away After Cardiac Arrest In Shillong :
He 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. He narrowly missed achieving his dream of becoming a fighter pilot, as he placed ninth in qualifiers, and only eight positions were available in the IAF.
After his studies, he spent 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.
He started his career by designing a small helicopter for the Indian Army, but remained unconvinced by his choice of a job at DRDO. Kalam was also part of the INCOSPAR committee working under Vikram Sarabhai, the renowned space scientist. In 1969, Kalam was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) where he was the project director of India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in near-earth orbit in July 1980. Kalam had first started work on an expandable rocket project independently at DRDO in 1965. In 1969, Kalam received the government’s approval and expanded the programme to include more engineers.
In 1963–64, he visited NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and Wallops Flight Facility. Between the 1970s and 1990s, Kalam made an effort to develop the Polar Satellite Launching Vehicle (PSLV) and SLV-III projects, both of which proved to be successful.
Kalam played a major part in developing many missiles under the mission including Agni, an intermediate range ballistic missile and Prithvi, the tactical surface-to-surface missile.
Kalam served as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organisation from July 1992 to December 1999. The Pokhran-II nuclear tests were conducted during this period in which he played an intensive political and technological role. Kalam served as the Chief Project Coordinator, along with Rajagopala Chidambaram, during the testing phase.
Media coverage of Kalam during this period made him the country’s best known nuclear scientist. In 1998, along with cardiologist Soma Raju, Kalam developed a low cost coronary stent, named the “Kalam-Raju Stent”. In 2012, the duo designed a rugged tablet computer for health care in rural areas, which was named the “Kalam-Raju Tablet”
Later Kalam was elected President of India in 2002 with the support of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Indian National Congress. After serving a term of five years, he returned to his civilian life of education, writing and public service. He received several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour.
Kalam served as the 11th President of India, succeeding K. R. Narayanan. He won the 2002 presidential election with an electoral vote of 922,884, surpassing the 107,366 votes won by Lakshmi Sahgal. He served from 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007.
After leaving office, Kalam became a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and the Indian Institute of Management Indore, an honorary fellow of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram, professor of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University and an adjunct at many other academic and research institutions across India. He taught information technology at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad and technology at Banaras Hindu University and Anna University.
In May 2012, Kalam launched a programme for the youth of India called the What Can I Give Movement, with a central theme of defeating corruption. He also enjoyed writing Tamil poetry and playing the veenai, a South Indian string instrument. Kalam listened to Carnatic devotional music every day and believed in the Hindu culture. He was nominated for the MTV Youth Icon of the Year award in 2003 and 2006.
In his book India 2020, Kalam strongly advocated an action plan to develop India into a “knowledge superpower” and a developed nation by the year 2020. He regarded his work on India’s nuclear weapons programme as a way to assert India’s place as a future superpower. It was reported that there was considerable demand in South Korea for translated versions of books authored by him.
Kalam took an active interest in other developments in the field of science and technology, including a research programme for developing bio-implants. He also supported Open Source technology over proprietary solutions, predicting that the use of free software on a large scale would bring the benefits of information technology to more people.
Kalam set a target of interacting with 100,000 students during the two years after his resignation from the post of scientific adviser in 1999. He explained, “I feel comfortable in the company of young people, particularly high school students. Henceforth, I intend to share with them experiences, helping them to ignite their imagination and preparing them to work for a developed India for which the road map is already available.”
Kalam died of a massive cardiac arrest on the evening of 27 July 2015 after he collapsed while delivering a lecture on ‘Livable Planet’ at Indian Institute of Management Shillong. Following the collapse on around 6.30 pm, Kalam, was wheeled into Bethany hospitals’ ICU in a critical condition but he was confirmed dead after more than two hours he was taken to the hospital. Kalam would have turned 84 in October 2015.
Governor of Meghalaya, V. Shanmuganathan rushed to the hospital on hearing the news of Kalam’s admission. Later Shanmughanathan said Kalam died at 7.45 pm even after medical team’s best efforts to revive Kalam. On 28 July, morning Chief Secretary PBO Warjri told reporters that he had spoken to Union Home Secretary, L.C. Goyal asking for arrangements to be made for carrying Kalam’s body to Delhi from Guwahati.
Government of India declared a seven-day state mourning as a mark of respect to the former President. President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and leaders condoled the former Presidents’ demise.
Kalam’s 79th birthday was recognised as World Student Day by the United Nations. He has also received honorary doctorates from 40 universities. The Government of India has honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 1981 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1990 for his work with ISRO and DRDO and his role as a scientific advisor to the Government. In 1997, Kalam received India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, for his contribution to the scientific research and modernisation of defence technology in India. In 2005, Switzerland declared 26 May as “Science Day” to commemorate Kalam’s visit to the country. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Von Braun Award from the National Space Society “to recognize excellence in the management and leadership of a space-related project.