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A.P. J. Abdul Kalam

A.P. J. Abdul Kalam

A.P. J. Abdul Kalam

25 July 2002 – 25 July 2007
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Manmohan Singh
Vice President Krishan Kant
Bhairon Singh Shekhawat
Preceded by K R Narayanan
Succeeded by Pratibha Patil
Personal details
Born Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam
15 October 1931 (age 83)
Rameswaram, Ramanathapuram District, Madras Presidency, British India
(now in Tamil Nadu, India)
Nationality Indian
Alma mater St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli
Madras Institute of Technology
Profession Professor, author, scientist, president
Aerospace engineer
Religion Islam

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam  is an Indian scientist and administrator who served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. Kalam was born and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, studied physics at the St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, and aerospace engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology, Chennai.

Before his term as President, he worked as an Aerospace engineer with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).Kalam is popularly known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology.He played a pivotal organisational, 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 the President of India in 2002, defeating Lakshmi Sahgal, was nominated by Bharatiya Janata Party and supported by opposition Indian National Congress, the major political parties of India. He is currently 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 (Mysuru) and an adjunct/visiting faculty at many other academic and research institutions across India.

Kalam advocated plans to develop India into a developed nation by 2020 in his book India 2020. He has received several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour. Kalam is known for his motivational speeches and interaction with the student community in India. He launched his mission for the youth of the nation in 2011 called the What Can I Give Movement with a central theme to defeat corruption in India.

Early life and education

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 in a Tamil Muslim family to Jainulabudeen, a boat owner and Ashiamma, a housewife, at Rameswaram, Ramanathapuram District, located in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. 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 financially 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. He was just a simple and complex man with a great fierceful heart in his childhood After completing his school 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 then moved to Madras in 1955 to study aerospace engineering.While Kalam was working on a senior class project, the Dean was dissatisfied with the lack of progress and threatened revoking his scholarship unless the project was finished within the next three days. He worked tirelessly on his project and met the deadline, impressing the Dean who later said, “I [Dean] was putting you  under stress and asking you to meet a difficult deadline”. 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.

Career as scientist

This was my first stage, in which I learnt leadership from three great teachers—Dr Vikram Sarabhai , Prof Satish Dhawan and Dr Brahm Prakash. This was the time of learning and acquisition of knowledge for me.

A P J Abdul Kalam

After graduating from Madras Institute of Technology (MIT – Chennai) in 1960, Kalam joined Aeronautical Development Establishment of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as a scientist. Kalam started his career by designing a small helicopter for the Indian Army, but remained unconvinced with the choice of his job at DRDO.[16] Kalam was also part of the INCOSPAR committee working under Vikram Sarabhai, the renowned space scientist.[9] In 1969, Kalam was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) where he was the project director of India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in near earth’s orbit in July 1980. Joining ISRO was one of Kalam’s biggest achievements in life and he is said to have found himself when he started to work on the SLV project. Kalam first started work on an expandable rocket project independently at DRDO in 1965.[1] In 1969, Kalam received the government’s approval and expanded the programme to include more engineers.

Kalam addresses engineering students at IIT Guwahati

In 1963–64, he visited NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton Virginia, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and Wallops Flight Facility situated at Eastern Shore of Virginia. During the period between the 1970s and 1990s, Kalam made an effort to develop the Polar SLV and SLV-III projects, both of which proved to be success.

Kalam was invited by Raja Ramanna to witness the country’s first nuclear test Smiling Buddha as the representative of TBRL, even though he had not participated in the development, test site preparation and weapon designing. In the 1970s, a landmark was achieved by ISRO when the locally built Rohini-1 was launched into space, using the SLV rocket. In the 1970s, Kalam also directed two projects, namely, Project Devil and Project Valiant , which sought to develop ballistic missiles from the technology of the successful SLV programme.  Despite the disapproval of Union Cabinet, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi allotted secret funds for these aerospace projects through her discretionary powers under Kalam’s directorship. Kalam played an integral role convincing the Union Cabinet to conceal the true nature of these classified aerospace projects. His research and educational leadership brought him great laurels and prestige in 1980s, which prompted the government to initiate an advanced missile programme under his directorship. Kalam and Dr V S Arunachalam, metallurgist and scientific adviser to the Defence Minister, worked on the suggestion by the then Defence Minister, R Venkataraman on a proposal for simultaneous development of a quiver of missiles instead of taking planned missiles one after another. R Venkatraman was instrumental in getting the cabinet approval for allocating INR388 crores for the mission, named Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) and appointed Kalam as the chief executive.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, although the projects have been criticised for mismanagement and cost and time overruns.He was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of Defence Research and Development Organisation from July 1992 to December 1999. The Pokhran-II nuclear tests were conducted during this period where he played an intensive political and technological role. Kalam served as the Chief Project Coordinator, along with R Chidambaram during the testing phase.Photos and snapshots of him taken by the media elevated Kalam as the country’s top nuclear scientist.

In 1998, along with cardiologist Dr Soma Raju, Kalam developed a low cost Coronary stent. It was named as “Kalam-Raju Stent” honouring them. In 2012, the duo, designed a rugged tablet PC for health care in rural areas, which was named as “Kalam-Raju Tablet”.

The polling for the presidential election began on 15 July 2002 in the Parliament and the state assemblies with media claiming that the election was a one-sided affair and Kalam’s victory was a foregone conclusion. The counting was held on 18 July Kalam won the presidential election in a highly one-sided contest. He became the 11th president of the Republic of India. He moved into the Rashtrapati Bhavan after he was sworn in on 25 July. Kalam was the third President of India to have been honoured 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 occupy Rashtrapati Bhawan.

During his term as President, he was affectionately known as the People’s President. In his words, signing the Office of Profit Bill was the toughest decision he had taken during his tenure.

Kalam is criticised for inaction as a President in deciding the fate of 20 out of the 21 mercy petitions. Article 72 of the Constitution of India empowers the President of India to grant pardon, suspend and remit death sentences and commute the death sentence of convicts on death row. Kalam acted on only one mercy plea in his 5-year tenure as a President, rejecting the plea of rapist Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who was hanged thereafter.The most important of the 20 pleas is thought to be that of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri terrorist who was convicted of conspiracy in the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament and was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of India in 2004. While the sentence was scheduled to be carried out on 20 October 2006, the pending action on the mercy plea resulted in him continuing in the death row.

At the end of his term, on 20 June 2007, Kalam expressed his willingness to consider a second term in office provided there was certainty about his victory in the 2007 presidential election. However, two days later, he decided not to contest the Presidential election again stating that he wanted to avoid involving Rashtrapati Bhavan from any political processes. He did not have the support of the Left parties, Shiv Sena and UPA constituents to receive a renewed mandate

Nearing the term expiry of the 12th President Pratibha Patil, whose tenure ended on 24 July 2012, media reports in April claimed that Kalam was likely to be nominated for his second term.After the reports, social networking sites were abuzz with activities extending their support for his candidature. BJP potentially backed his nomination, saying that the party will lend their support if Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party and Indian National Congress proposes his name for the 2012 presidential election. Just a month ahead of the election, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee also expressed their support to Kalam and revealed that they both would suggest his name. Days after expressing support, Mulayam Singh Yadav backed out, leaving Mamata Banerjee as a solitary supporter. On 18 June 2012, Kalam refused to contest 2012 presidential poll after much speculations.

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