APJ Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 at Pamban Island. His full name was Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam. He was born in a Tamil-Muslim family. His father’s name was Jainulabdeen Marakayar, who was a boat owner. His mother was a housewife named Ashiamma. Kalam was the youngest in his family. He had 4 elder brothers and one elder sister in his family.
In school years, Kalam had average grades but he was a hardworking and bright student. He had a strong desire to learn and spent hours in studying. His favourite subject was Mathematics.
He completed his education at Schwartz Higher Secondary School situated at Ramanathapuram.
After that he went to attend Saint Joseph’s College at Tiruchirapalli, then he was affiliated with the University of Madras, from where he graduated in Physics in 1954.
He moved to Madras in 1955 to study aerospace engineering in the Madras Institute of Technology.
“Kalam originally wanted to become a pilot in the Indian Air Force (IAF). He narrowly missed the opportunity”.
Rise of the Missile Man Of India
After graduation, Kalam joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research And Development Organisation (DRDO). He started his career by designing a hovercraft. Kalam was also a part of the INCOSPAR Committee working under Vikram Sarabai, the renowned space scientist of India.
In 1969, APJ Abdul Kalam was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
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.
Between the 1970s and 1990s, Kalam also made an effort to develop Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and SLV-III projects, both of which proved to be successful.
APJ Abdul Kalam was invited to witness the nation’s first nuclear test “Smiling Buddha” as the representative of TBRL. Kalam also directed two projects, Project Devil and Project Valiant, to develop ballistic missiles from the technology of the successful SLV programme. KAlam played an important role in convincing the Union Cabinet to conceal the true nature of these classified aerospace projects. The research he did and the educational leadership brought him great prestige in the 1980s due to which the government evoked an advanced missile programme under his dictatorship.
The then Defence Minister R. Venkatraman was instrumental in getting the cabinet approval of allocating 380 crores Rupees for the mission which was named Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) and appointed APJ Abdul Kalam As the Chief Executive.
Under the IGMDP mission, Kalam developed many missiles including Agni and Prithvi.
From 1992 till 1999 Kalam served as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and Secretary of the DRDO. He played an important and intensive political and technological role in the Pokhran-II nuclear test. He served as the Chief Project Coordinator along with Rajagopala Chidambaram, during the testing phase.
APJ Abdul Kalam as the President Of India
Abdul Kalam won the 2002 presidential election and became the 11th President Of India. He won with an electoral vote of 9,22,884 votes and his term lasterd from 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007.
The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) which was in power at that time, announced on 10 June 2002, that they would nominate Kalam for the post of President. Both the Samajwadi Party and Nationalist Congress Party backed his candidacy.
Kalam was the third President Of India, to have been honoured with a Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian Award. He was the first scientist and Bachelor to occupy Rashtrapati Bhawan.
He was affectionately known as the People’s President during his term of Presidency. Signing the Office of Profit Bill was the toughest decision during his tenure as president. Kalam acted on only one mercy plea out of 21 in his five year tenure as president. The most notable plea was Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri terrorist, convicted in conspiracy in the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. He was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court Of India.
In September 2003, in a session in PGI Chandigarh, Kalam supported the need for a Uniform Civil Code in India.
At the end of his term, he expressed his willingness to consider a second term in the 2007 Presidential election but he did not have the support of the left parties, Shiv Sena and UPA constituents.
In the 2012 Presidential elections BJP supported his nomination saying that the party would lend their support if the Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party and Indian National Congress proposed him as the candidate. A month ahead both Mulayam Singh and Mamta Bannerjee also supported his candidacy but after some days Mulayam Singh Yadav backed out.
On 18 June 2012, Kalam himself declined to contest the 2012 Presidential poll.
APJ Abdul Kalam being the former President
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. He also became a chancellor of the Indian Institute Of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram and was also a Professor at Anna University.
He taught Information Technology at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad and technology at Banaras Hindu University and Anna University.
Death of APJ Abdul Kalam
The Bharat Ratna and the former President Of India, APJ Abdul Kalam died on 27 July 2015. He travelled to Shillong to deliver a lecture on “Creating a Livable Planet Earth” at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong. In between his lecture he collapsed, he was rushed to the nearby hospital Bethany Hospital in a critical condition but Kalam was confirmed dead of a sudden Cardiac arrest at 7:45 PM.
His last words to his aide Srijan Pal Singh were “Funny guy, Are you doing well”.
Kalam’s body was airlifted in an air force helicopter and then it was flown to New Delhi on 28 July in an air force C-130J Super Hercules.
On the morning of 29 July, Kalam’s body was wrapped in the Indian Flag. His body arrived at Madurai airport that afternoon in a C-130J Super Hercules.
The Three Army Chiefs received his body and many state dignitaries were present at that time. After a brief ceremony, his body was received at the town of Mandapam.
On 30 July 2015, the former president was laid to rest at Rameshwaram’s Pei Karumbu Ground with full state honours. Over 3,50,000 people attended his last rites, including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Governor of Tamil Nadu and the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh.