Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, better known as A. P. J. Abdul Kalam , was the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. A career scientist turned statesman, Kalam was born and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, and studied physics and aerospace engineering. He 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 programme 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.
Kalam was elected as the 11th President of India in 2002 with the support of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the then-opposition Indian National Congress. Widely referred to as the “People’s President,” he returned to his civilian life of education, writing and public service after a single term. He was a recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour.
While delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, Kalam collapsed and died from an apparent cardiac arrest on 27 July 2015, aged 83. Thousands including national-level dignitaries attended the funeral ceremony held in his hometown of Rameshwaram, where he was buried with full state honours.
Dr Kalam believed that defense technology can be used as a technological tool for national development and enlisting partners in the endeavor. He was conferred the degree of Doctor of Science by several universities. He is recipient of several awards, including national design awards, the Dr Biren Roy space award, the Om Prakash Bhasin award, the Madhya Pradesh government’s National Nehru award, the Astronomical Society of India’s Aryabhatta award in 1994, the Professor Y Nayudamma Memorial gold medal in 1996, the G M Modi award for science in 1996, and the H K Firodia award for excellence in science and technology in 1996. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1981 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and Bharat Ratna in 1997.
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.
I have identified five areas where India has a core competence for integrated action: (1) agriculture and food processing; (2) education and healthcare; (3) information and communication technology; (4) infrastructure, reliable and quality electric power, surface transport and infrastructure for all parts of the country; and (5) self-reliance in critical technologies. These five areas are closely inter-related and if advanced in a coordinated way, will lead to food, economic and national security.
Kalam describes a “transformative moment” in his life when he asked Pramukh Swami, the guru of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sampradaya, how India might realise this five-pronged vision of development. Pramukh Swami’s answer—to add a sixth area developing faith in God and spirituality to overcome the current climate of crime and corruption—became the spiritual vision for the next 15 years Kalam’s life, which he describes in his final book, Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji, published just a month before his death.
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 biomedical implants. He also supported open source technology over proprietary software, 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.” His dream is to let every student to light up the sky with victory using their latent fire in the heart.
In October 2015, Wheeler Island, the national missile test site in Odisha was renamed as Abdul Kalam Island.
After 2 years from his death, nation pays tribute to his evergreen personality, his books, his quotes and above all Him. He will be cherished forever in the History of India.