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Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam 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.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was born in India on October 15, 1931. A lifelong scientist, Kalam's prominent role in India's 1998 nuclear weapons tests established him as a national hero. In 2002, India's ruling National Democratic Alliance helped him win election against the country's former president, Kocheril Raman Narayanan; Kalam became India's 11th president, a largely ceremonial post, in July 2002.

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 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.

Early life and education

APJ ABDUL KALAM 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.

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 two days. He worked tirelessly on his project and met the deadline, impressing the Dean.

Career as scientist

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 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 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 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 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. Kalam played an integral role convincing the Union Cabinet to conceal the true nature of these classified aerospace projects. 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.

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. 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.

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, He was also the first scientist and the first bachelor to occupy Rashtrapati Bhawan.

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.


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