A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
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This article is about the former President of India. For the freedom fighter, see Abul Kalam Azad.
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A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Abdul Kalam at the 12th Wharton India Economic Forum, 2008
11th President of India
25 July 2002 – 25 July 2007
Prime MinisterAtal Bihari Vajpayee
Vice PresidentBhairon Singh Shekhawat
Preceded byK. R. Narayanan
Succeeded byPratibha Devisingh Patil
BornAvul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam
15 October 1931 (age 82)
Rameswaram, Madras Presidency, British India
(now in Tamil Nadu, India)
Alma materSt. Joseph’s College, Tiruchirapalli
Madras Institute of Technology
ProfessionProfessor, Author, scientist, president
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam (Listeni/ˈæbdʊl kəˈlɑːm/; 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 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 (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 the original 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 the Bharatiya Janata Party, 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 (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. 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.
1 Early life and education
2 Career as scientist
4 Criticisms and controversies
4.1 Personal attacks
5 Future India: 2020
6 Popular culture
7 Awards and honours
8 Books and documentaries
9 See also
11 External links
Early life and education
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 in a Tamil Muslim family to Jainulabdeen, a boat owner and Ashiamma, a housewife, at Rameswaram, 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 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.
"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 Rameshwaram Elementary 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 [Kalam] under stress and asking you to meet a difficult deadline". For him becoming a fighter pilot was a “dearest dream” but he failed to realize it as he bagged the ninth position when only eight slots 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 Defense Research and Development Organization (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. Kalam was also part of the INCOSPAR committee working 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 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. In 1969, Kalam received the government’s approval and expanded the program 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 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 simultaneous 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".
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 by Lakshmi 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, Narayanan chose not to seek a second term in office, leaving the field clear for Kalam.
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.
—Kalam responding to the announcement of his candidature by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
On 18 June, Kalam filed his nomination papers in the Parliament of India, accompanied by Vajpayee and his senior Cabinet colleagues.
Kalam along with Vladimir Putin and Manmohan Singh during his presidency
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 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.
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.
Future India: 2020
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam delivering a speech
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, 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 is strong supporter of Space based solar power. In 2012 China proposed joint development between India and China towards developing a solar power satellite, during a visit by Kalam.
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 Tamil poetry 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 Student’s 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 honourName of award or honourAwarding organisation
2012Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa)Simon Fraser University
2011IEEE Honorary MembershipIEEE
2010Doctor of EngineeringUniversity of Waterloo
2009Honorary DoctorateOakland University 
2009Hoover MedalASME Foundation, USA 
2009International von Kármán Wings AwardCalifornia Institute of Technology, U.S.A
2008Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa)Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
2007King Charles II MedalRoyal Society, U.K
2007Honorary Doctorate of ScienceUniversity of Wolverhampton, U.K
2000Ramanujan AwardAlwars Research Centre, Chennai
1998Veer Savarkar AwardGovernment of India
1997Indira Gandhi Award for National IntegrationIndian National Congress
1997Bharat RatnaGovernment of India
1990Padma VibhushanGovernment of India
1981Padma BhushanGovernment of India
Books and documentaries
Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technology by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Roddam Narasimha; Indian Academy of Sciences, 1988
India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium by A. P. J Abdul Kalam, Y. S. Rajan; New York, 1998.
Wings of Fire: An Autobiography by A. P. J Abdul Kalam, Arun Tiwari; Universities Press, 1999.
Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam; Viking, 2002.
The Luminous Sparks by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam; Punya Publishing Pvt Ltd, 2004.
Mission India by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Paintings by Manav Gupta; Penguin Books, 2005
Inspiring Thoughts by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam; Rajpal & Sons, 2007
Indomitable Spirit by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam; Rajpal and Sons Publishing
Envisioning an Empowered Nation by APJ Abdul Kalam with A. Sivathanu Pillai; Tata McGraw-Hill, New Delhi
You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond by A. P. J Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari; Ocean Books, 2011.
Turning Points: A journey through challenges by A. P. J Abdul Kalam; Harper Collins India, 2012.
Target 3 Billion" by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh; December, 2011 | Publisher Penguin Books.
My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam;August 2013 by the Rupa Publication.
Eternal Quest: Life and Times of Dr. Kalam by S. Chandra; Pentagon Publishers, 2002.
President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam by R. K. Pruthi; Anmol Publications, 2002.
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam: The Visionary of India by K. Bhushan, G. Katyal; A.P.H. Pub. Corp, 2002.
A Little Dream (documentary film) by P. Dhanapal; Minveli Media Works Private Limited, 2008.
The Kalam Effect: My Years with the President by P.M. Nair; Harper Collins, 2008.
My Days With Mahatma Abdul Kalam by Fr.A.K. George; Novel Corporation, 2009.
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