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THE MISSILE MAN OF INDIA

“DIFFICULTIES IN YOUR LIFE, DO NOT COME TO DESTROY YOU, BUT TO HELP YOU REALISE YOUR HIDDEN POTENTIAL & POWER. LET DIFFICULTIES KNOW THAT YOU TOO ARE DIFFICULT”

Can we all take some time and really ponder about the above phrase…? Don’t you feel that it is the attitude that we have towards the situations we face in life, define who we are? We can either complain about the hardships we face in life & just give up or else we can try and cultivate a positive attitude & face challenges life throws at us. The person who boldly said “LET DIFFICULTIES KNOW THAT YOU TOO ARE DIFFICULT” belongs to the 2nd category & he is none other than DR. A.P.J ABDUL KALAM. Dr Kalam was born on the 15th of October 1931 in Rameswaram in the state of Tamil Nadu(then Madras Presidency in British India) into a family which was facing a serious financial crisis. During his childhood days, he had to sell newspapers in order to add to the family’s inadequate earnings. He was a studious kid & had a thirst to know more about how things really happened & curiosity to learn more and more new things. He went on to attend Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli after completing his secondary education at the Schwartz Higher School in Ramanathapuram.

Afterwards, he travelled to Madras to study aerospace engineering at Madras Institute of Technology(MIT). During his 3rd year at MIT, he was assigned a project to design a low-level attack aircraft together with his fellow colleagues with a tough deadline & he went on to impress his mentor at MIT with his quality work & dedication towards the project. At this point of time, his aim was to become a fighter pilot which he could not achieve. Upon graduating from MIT, he joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as a scientist in 1958. During his venture as a scientist, he contributed to many projects. In the early 1960s, he worked with the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) under the renowned space scientist Vikram Sarabhai. He also designed a small hovercraft at DRDO. However, he was not very content with his work at DRDO and was looking forward to his transfer to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969. There he served as the project director of the SLV-III, which was India’s first indigenously designed and produced satellite launch vehicle.

Then in the 1970s, he began making efforts to develop the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle(PSLV). Dr. Kalam also directed several other projects, including Project Devil & Project Valiant. Project Devil was an early liquid-fueled missile project aimed at producing a short-range surface-to-air missile. Project Valiant aimed at the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Just as same as the Project Devil, this project was not a success but played a considerable role in the development of the Prithvi missile at a later period. In the early 1980s, the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), an Indian Ministry of Defence programme managed by the DRDO in partnership with other government organizations was launched. 

He was asked to lead the project, so he returned to DRDO as the Chief Executive of the IGMDP in 1983. The IGMDP, with the guidance of Dr.Kalam, succeeded and produced numerous successful missiles such as the first Prithvi missile in 1988, and the Agni missile in 1989. Owing to his achievements as the director of the IGMDP, Dr.Kalam got the nickname “Missile Man.”

His involvement in politics started in 1992 when he was appointed as the Scientific Adviser to the Defense Minister. In 1999, he was appointed as the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India with the rank of a cabinet minister.
He was a person who had a vision for his country & also was very much passionate about serving his nation.

In 1998, he proposed a countrywide plan called Technology Vision 2020 to serve as an action plan to make India a developed nation by the year 2020. This goes on to show that he was not only a great scientist but a visionary as well. He put forward several suggestions, including improved agricultural productivity, nuclear empowerment, and technological innovations to achieve this vision of his. In 2002, the National Democratic Alliance which was in power expressed their decision to nominate A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for the President of India to succeed outgoing President K.R. Narayanan. Dr Kalam, being a popular national figure, easily won the presidential election & assumed office as the 11th President of India on 25 July 2002, becoming the first scientist to occupy the office. Over the course of his five-year term, he remained committed to his vision of transforming his country into a developed nation and thus spent a lot of time conducting one-on-one meetings with young people to inspire them to achieve their best because he believed that young people had innovative ideas which would be beneficial for the nation’s growth.

He was rather popular with the citizens of the country and obtained a name as the “People’s President”.  He stepped down as the President on the 25th of July 2007 after serving his term and did not contest for a second time. Following his venture as President, he became a visiting professor at several reputed institutions. He also served as the chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram. He was the author of several books such as Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India, The Luminous Sparks (2004), Inspiring Thoughts (2007), Turning Points: A Journey Through Challenges (2012) & You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond which he co-authored with Arun Tiwari in 2011. He collapsed while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong on 27 July 2015 and was rushed to the Bethany Hospital. He died from a cardiac arrest at 7:45 pm. The Government of India declared a seven-day state mourning period as a mark of respect. His last rites were attended by over 350,000 people. Dr. Kalam was the proud receiver of Padma Bhushan in 1981, Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and Bharat Ratna in 1997 from the Government of India. In 1997, he was honoured by the Government of India with the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration. The IEEE honoured Kalam with IEEE Honorary Membership in 2011. He was also the recipient of honorary doctorates from 40 universities.

He won many such prestigious awards from all around the world & to date is considered to be one of the finest personalities who had a clear vision for a brighter future for many generations to come.

Design by : Shanaka Vishwantha

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