Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam born October 15, 1931, Tamil Nadu, India, usually referred to as Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is the current President of India. A notable scientist and engineer, he is often referred to as the Missile Man of India for his work and is considered a leading progressive, mentor, innovator and visionary.
He received his degree in aeronautical engineering from the Madras Institute of Technology in 1958. After graduation he joined India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to work on a hovercraft project. In 1962, Kalam moved to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), where his team successfully launched several satellites. He made a significant contribution as Project Director to develop India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully placed the Rohini space satellite into near earth orbit in July 1980.
In 1982, Kalam returned to DRDO as Director, focusing on Indigenous guided missiles. He was responsible for the development and operationalisation of the AGNI and PRITHVI missiles. This earned him the sobriquet “India’s missile-man”. He also helped in the formulation of healthcare products using technology developed for missiles.
In July 1992, Kalam became a Scientific Advisor to India’s Defence Minister. As the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Indian government, he held the rank of a Cabinet Minister. His work led to the successful Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, which reiterated India’s position as a nuclear weapon state. Kalam was also the Chairman, Ex-officio, of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet (SAC-C) and piloted the “India Millennium Mission 2020”.
Kalam later took up academia as a Professor of Technology & Societal Transformation at Anna University, Chennai from November 2001 and was involved in teaching and research tasks. Above all, he took up a mission to ignite the young minds for national development by meeting young school students across the country.
Kalam was elected the 11th President of India and took office on July 25, 2002.
Kalam has the unique distinction of having received honorary doctorates from at least thirty universities, as also India’s three highest civilian honours: the Padma Bhushan in 1981; the Padma Vibhushan in 1990; and the Bharat Ratna in 1997. He has recently refused an honorary doctorate from a University, stating he is satisfied with the ones he has earned with his hard work and determination.
Something of Kalam’s probable views on certain issues can be surmised from positions espoused by him in the past. His book “India 2020” strongly advocates an action plan to develop India into a knowledge superpower and into a developed nation by the year 2020. Kalam is credited with the view that India ought to take a more assertive stance in international relations; he regards his work on India’s nuclear weapons program as a way to assert India’s place as a future superpower.
Kalam continues to take an active interest in other developments in the field of science and technology as well. He has proposed a research programme for developing bio-implants. He is a supporter of Open source software over proprietary solutions and believes that the use of open source software on a large scale will bring more people the benefits of information technology.
Kalam’s belief in the power of technology to resolve society’s problems and his views of these problems as a result of inefficient distribution of resources is modernistic. He also sees science and technology as ideology-free areas and emphasizes the cultivation of scientific temper and entrepreneurial drive. In this, he finds a lot of support among India’s new business leaders like the founders of Infosys and Wipro who began their careers as technology professionals much in the same way Kalam did.
Kalam observes strict personal discipline, practicing vegetarianism, teetotalism and celibacy. Kalam is a scholar of Tirukkural; in most of his speeches, he quotes at least one kural. Kalam has written several inspirational books, most notably his autobiography Wings of Fire, aimed at motivating Indian youth. Another of his books, Guiding Souls: Dialogues on the Purpose of Life reveals his spiritual side. It has been reported that there is considerable demand in South Korea for translated versions of books authored by him.