People’s President Abdul Kalam passes delivering lecture on ‘Liveable Planet’
Shillong (Meghalaya): Dr
APJ Abdul Kalam, one of the most popular presidents of India, died on Monday
after he collapsed during a lecture to business management graduates in the
northeastern city of Shillong.
The 84-year-old Kalam,
who was President of India from 2002 to 2007, was affectionately called the “Missile
Man,” “Scientist-Patriot” and “People’s President”. Many Indians credited him
with lending relevance to what is largely a ceremonial post.
Kalam suffered a
cardiac arrest during the lecture and was declared dead as soon as he was
brought to the Bethany Hospital. He was in Shillong to deliver a lecture titled
“Liveable Planet Earth,” according to his last tweet.
Kalam, a rocket
engineer, played a key role in weaponising India’s nuclear programme and was
instrumental in conducting the country’s second nuclear test, in 1998, which
earned the wrath of the United States and was followed by international
sanctions. He received several national awards for his work.
During his term in the
office, Kalam opened the imposing gates of the presidential palace and made it
more accessible to ordinary Indians by hosting schoolchildren, farmers and
scientists. He was the author of the best-selling inspirational book called
“Ignited Minds — Unleashing the Power Within India,” which was very popular
among schoolchildren. He was the visiting professor to many management, science
and technology colleges across India.
His quotes were often
printed on post cards, calendars and greeting cards.
death, President Pranab Mukherjee said, “Dr Kalam was a people’s President
during his life time and will remain so even after death.”
“As a President, his life, his work and
everything about him continues to show the way for India. His life-long efforts
to deploy scientific intellect in making India powerful, is truly the nation’s
wealth,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a televised address. “He used to
say teaching was his passion, and he spent his last moments among the students
doing what he loved most.”
Meghalaya Governor V
Shanmuganathan said the doctors ‘made enormous efforts to save him but we lost
a great leader.’ Meghalaya Chief Secretary PBO Warjri broke the news to media: “Kalam
is no more.”
Doctors at the hospital
said Kalam was brought ‘almost dead’ after suffering a cardiac arrest. Hospital
director John Sailo Ryntathiang said they did their best to revive him. But he
could not be saved.
The Kerala government
announced a holiday for government offices and educational institutions on
Tuesday to mourn the death of Kalam.
Kalam the newspaper boy
Born on 15 October 1931
in Rameswarama, Tamil Nadu, Kalam studied physics and aerospace engineering,
and went on to become one of the most celebrated aerospace and defence
scientists in the country.
Kalam’s early years were,
however, steeped in poverty when, as a mere eight-year-old, he hawked
newspapers to supplement the income of a large family.
There were times when
food was scarce in the family and his hard-pressed mother stretched every
resource to the utmost to keep her five sons and daughters as well as her boat
owner husband and his brother's families fed, clothed and in good health.
By his own admission,
Kalam would wake up much before dawn to distribute newspapers in the town after
collecting newspaper bundles at the Rameshwaram railway station. The tough
routine lasted a year.
His sister pawned
jewellery with a moneylender so that the studious Kalam could have Rs 600 to
join the Madras Institute of Technology.
Kalam contributed to
the development of India’s first satellite launch vehicle and was the architect
of the country’s guided missile development programme.
He spent many decades
as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and
Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
He became the DRDO chief in 1992. He became the principal scientific advisor to
the Indian government in 1999 with the rank of a cabinet minister. He held the
post till 2001.
Missile Man of India
Kalam was intimately
involved in the India's civilian space program and military missile development
efforts. He thus earned the moniker of 'Missile Man of India' for his work on
the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology.
Kalam had played a
pivotal role in India's Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the
original nuclear test by India in 1974.
Kalam was elected the
President of India in 2002 with the support of the both the ruling Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) and the Opposition Indian National Congress. After a term of
5 years, he returned to civilian life and was actively involved in education, writing,
and public service.
India government had
conferred Padma Bhushan on him with in 1981, Padma Vibhushan in 1990. He was
also presented with Honorary Doctorate of Science by University of
Wolverhampton, UK in 2007.
An inspiring luminary,
Kalam had authored several books including noted ones such as 'Wings of Fire',
'Ignited Minds', 'The Luminous Sparks', 'Mission India', among others. Many of
his books were translated into Malayalam. (With inputs from agencies)