Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam ( pronunciation (help·info); born 15 October 1931) usually referred to as Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, is an Indian scientist and administrator who served as the 11th President of India. 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 (MIT), 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 organizational, technical and political role in India's Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since theoriginal nuclear test by India in 1974. Some scientific experts have however called Kalam a man with no authority over nuclear physics but who just carried on the works of Homi J. Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai.
Kalam was elected the President of India in 2002, defeating Lakshmi Sahgal and was supported by both the Indian National Congress and theBharatiya Janata Party, the major political parties of India. He is currently a visiting professor at Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and Indian Institute of Management Indore, Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram, a professor of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University (Chennai), JSS University (Mysore) 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. Books authored by him have received considerable demands in South Korea for the translated versions. 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. Kalam was also criticized for inaction as a president on the pending mercy plea petitions, that delayed prosecution of the convicts.
Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 to Jainulabdeen, a boat owner and Ashiamma, a housewife, at Rameswaram, located in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu] He came from a poor background and started working at an early age to supplement his family's income. He was brought up in a multi-religious environment but did follow a religious routine. After completing school, Kalam distributed newspapers in order 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.Early life and education
"I inherited honesty and self-discipline from my father; from my mother, I inherited faith in goodness and deep kindness as did my three brothers and sisters."—A quote from Kalam's autobiography
After completing his school education at the Rameswaram Elementary School, Kalam went on to attend Saint Joseph's College, Tiruchirappalli 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., at the MIT Madras, India (see: Wings of Fire), where he obtained his masters degree. Kalam has a several honorary doctorates, but completed his formal education with the Master's degree from MIT, Madras.
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 two days. He worked tirelessly on his project and met the deadline, impressing the Dean who later said, "I [Dean] was putting you [Kalam] under stress and asking you to meet a difficult deadline".
Career as scientist
After graduating from Madras Institute of Technology (MIT – Chennai) in 1960, Kalam joined Aeronautical Development Establishment ofDefense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) as a chief 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. Kalam was also part of the INCOSPAR committeeworking under Vikram Sarabhai, the renowned space scientist. In 1969, Kalam was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) where he was the project director of India's first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohinisatellite in near earth 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. In 1969, Kalam received the government's approval and expanded the program 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 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 builtRohini-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, PremierIndira 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 program under his directorship.Kalam and Dr. V. S. Arunachalam, metallurgist and scientific adviser to the Defense Minister, worked on the suggestion by the then Defense Minister, R. Venkataraman on a proposal for simulataneous development of a quiver of missiles instead of taking planned missiles one by one. R Venkatraman was instrumental in getting the cabinet approval for allocating 388 crore rupees for the mission, named Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (I.G.M.D.P) 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".
Abdul 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 107,366 votes won byLakshmi Sahgal. He served from 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007.
On 10 June 2002, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which was in power at the time, expressed to the leader of opposition, Indian National Congress president Sonia Gandhi that they would propose Kalam for the post of President. The Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party backed his candidacy. After the Samajwadi Party announced its support for him, President K. R. Narayanan chose not to seek a second term in office and hence left the field clear for Kalam to become the 11th President of India.
I am really overwhelmed. Everywhere both in Internet and in other media, I have been asked for a message. I was thinking what message I can give to the people of the country at this juncture.
On 18 June, Kalam filed his nomination papers in the Parliament of India, accompanied by Vajpayee and his senior Cabinet colleagues.
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. Sarvapali 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 criticized 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 ends 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.
Many, many citizens have also expressed the same wish. It only reflects their love and affection for me and the aspiration of the people. I am really overwhelmed by this support. This being their wish, I respect it. I want to thank them for the trust they have in me."—Kalam's message to public upon denying to contest Presidential poll 2012.
Criticisms and controversies
The controversy that surrounds Kalam's role as a nuclear scientist, is the lack of reliable and factual reporting of the yield of Pokhran-II tests. The director of the site test, K. Santhanam, publicly admitted that the thermonuclear bomb was a "fizzle" test, criticising Kalam for issuing the wrong report. However, Kalam dismissed the claims and R. Chidambaram, a key associate of Pokhran-II, also described these claims as incorrect.
In spite of his leading role in the development of Indian nuclear programme, Kalam has received criticism from many of his peers who claimed that he had "no authority" over nuclear science.Homi Sethna, a chemical engineer criticised Kalam claiming that Kalam had no background in publishing articles in nuclear science, even in nuclear physics. Sethna maintained that Kalam received his masters degree in aerospace engineering, which is a completely different discipline from nuclear engineering, and what various universities awarded him for his achievements had nothing to do with nuclear physics. Sethna, in his last interview, maintained that in the 1950s, Kalam had failed advanced physics courses during his college life and quoted "What does he know (about [nuclear] physics)....?", on the national television. Homi Sethna also accused Kalam of using his presidency to gain a national stature of a nuclear scientist.
Others felt that Kalam had never worked in any of the Indian nuclear power plants and had no role in developing the nuclear weapon which was completed under Raja Ramanna. Kalam worked as an aerospace engineer in a SLV project in the 1970s and from the 1980s onwards, as a project director before he moved to Defence Research and Development Organisation, Sethna concluded. The prestigious IISc,Bangalore rejected Kalam's application as they felt that he lacked scientific credentials.
In 2008, Indian media questioned his claims about his personal contributions to missile inventions while working in a classified missile programme. Kalam had taken credit of inventing the Agni,Prithvi and Aakash missile system. All of these were developed, researched and designed by other scientists whereas Kalam was involved in getting the funds and other logistic tasks. As a director of DRDO, a lot of credit had gone to Kalam. R. N. Agarwal, former director, Advanced System Laboratory and former Program Director of Agni missile was considered to be the real architect behind the successful design of Agni Missile. In his own biography, Kalam credited the development of Agni missile to Dr Ram Narayan Agarwal, an alumnus of MIT. For the Prithvi missile project, he named Col VJ Sundaram as the brain behind this project and for the Trishul missile, he gave credit to Commander SR Mohan. In 2006, senior media correspondent Praful Bidwai, in the The Daily Star, wrote that two aerospace projects, Project Valiant and Project Devil, which were authorised by former Premier Indira Gandhi under the directorship of Abdul Kalam, resulted in "total failure". In the 1980s, these projects were ultimately cancelled by the government under the pressure of the Indian Army.
Kalam was also criticised by civil groups over his stand on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, where he supported setting up of the nuclear power plant and never spoke with the local people. The protesters were hostile to his visit as they perceived to him to be a pro-nuclear scientist and were unimpressed by the assurance provided by him on the safety features of the plant.
- Frisking by American security authorities
Abdul Kalam was frisked at the JFK Airport in New York, while boarding a plane on 29 September 2011. He was subjected to "private screening" as he does not come under the category of dignitaries exempt from security screening procedures under American guidelines. He was frisked again after boarding the Air India aircraft with the US security officials asking for his jacket and shoes, claiming that these items were not checked according to the prescribed procedures during the "private screening", despite protests from the airline crew confirming him as India's president. The incident was not reported until 13 November 2011. India threatened retaliatory action as there was a "general sense of outrage" around the country. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs protested over this incident and a statement by the ministry said that the US Government had written a letter to Kalam, expressing its deep regret for the inconvenience.
Kalam was previously frisked by the ground staff of the Continental Airlines at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi in July 2009 and was treated like an ordinary passenger, despite him being on the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security's list of people exempted from security screening in India.
Future India: 2020
In his book India 2020, Kalam strongly advocates an action plan to develop India into a knowledge superpower and a developed nation by the year 2020. He regards his work on India's nuclear weapons program as a way to assert India's place as a future superpower.
It was reported that, there was a considerable demand in South Korea for translated versions of books authored by him.
Kalam continues to take an active interest in other developments in the field of science and technology. He has proposed a research program for developing bio-implants. He is a supporter of Open Source over proprietary solutions and believes that the use of free software on a large scale will 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. In his own words, "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." He continued to interact with students during his term as a President and also during his post-presidency period as a visiting professor at Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and Indian Institute of Management Indore, Chancellor of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram, aprofessor of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University (Chennai), JSS University (Mysore), and an adjunct/visiting faculty at many other academic and research institutions across India.
In May 2011, Kalam launched his mission for the youth of the nation called the What Can I Give Movement with a central theme to defeat corruption. He also has interests in writing Tamilpoetry and in playing veenai, a South Indian string instrument.
He was nominated for the MTV Youth Icon of the Year award in 2003 and in 2006. In the 2011 Hindi film I Am Kalam, Kalam is portrayed as an extremely positive influence to a poor but bright Rajasthani boy named Chhotu, who renames himself Kalam in honour of his idol.
Awards and honours
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam's 79th birthday was recognised as World Students' Day by 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 immense and valuable contribution to the scientific research and modernisation of defence technology in India.
|Year of award or honour||Name of award or honour||Awarding organisation|
|2012||Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa)||Simon Fraser University|
|2011||IEEE Honorary Membership||IEEE|
|2010||Doctor of Engineering||University of Waterloo|
|2009||Hoover Medal||ASME Foundation, USA|
|2009||International von Kármán Wings Award||California Institute of Technology, U.S.A|
|2008||Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa)||Nanyang Technological University, Singapore|
|2007||King Charles II Medal||Royal Society, U.K|
|2007||Honorary Doctorate of Science||University of Wolverhampton, U.K|
|2000||Ramanujan Award||Alwars Research Centre, Chennai|
|1998||Veer Savarkar Award||Government of India|
|1997||Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration||Government of India|
|1997||Bharat Ratna||Government of India|
|1990||Padma Vibhushan||Government of India|
|1981||Padma Bhushan||Government of India|