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President Dr. APJ Abdulkalam

Born on 15th October 1931 at Rameswaram, in Tamil Nadu, Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, specialized in Aero Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology. He initially worked in DRDO in 1958 and then joined ISRO in 1963. Dr. Kalam has made significant contribution to Indian satellite and launch vehicles of ISRO and also in the missile programme of DRDO. As project Director, SLV-III, he contributed for the design, development and management of India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) to inject Rohini satellite in the near earth orbit.

He was responsible for the evolution of ISRO’s launch vehicles programme and configurations. He rejoined DRDO in 1982 and conceived the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) for indigenous missiles. He was Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister and Secretary, Department of Defence Research & Development from July 1992 to December 1999.

As Chairman, Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), he generated the Technology Vision 2020 documents – a road map for transforming India from Developing India to Developed India. He provided overall guidance to a number of Homegrown Technology Projects and major technology missions such as Sugar, Advanced Composites and Fly Ash utilization.

Dr. Kalam has served as the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, in the rank of Cabinet Minister, from November 1999 to November 2001. He was primarily responsible for evolving policies, strategies and missions for generation of innovations and support systems for multiple applications. Also, generating science and technology task in strategic, economic and social sectors in partnership with Government departments, institutions and industry. Dr. Kalam was also the Chairman, Ex-officio, of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet (SAC-C).

Dr. Kalam took up academic pursuit as Professor, Technology & Societal Transformation at Anna University, Chennai and involved in teaching and research tasks. Above all he is on his mission to ignite the young minds for national development by meeting high school students across the country.

Dr. Kalam was conferred with the Degree of Doctor of Science (D.Sc. Honoris Causa) by 30 universities/academic institutions. He is recipient of several awards including the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration 1997.

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has been awarded Padma Bhushan in 1981, Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and BHARAT RATNA in 1997.

Source: www.presidentofindia.nic.in

PInteraction and Interviews with Dr. A.P.J. Abdulkalam

His colleagues fondly refer to Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalama scientific advisor to the prime minister, as "the 200 per cent Indian " for his fierce patriotism and derision for Indians with a penchant for the foreign.

The father of India's missile programme was born in a poor family in Dhansokhodi in the Rameshwaram district of Tamil Nadu. And strangely enough, his only visit to foreign shores was a two-year stint four decades ago when the NASA invited him. In a freewheeling interview with Shantanu Guha Ray, Dr Kalam talks of his vision for India. Excerpts

What would have happened if there was no Partition and India and Pakistan did not have to spend such Enormous amounts on defence?

Look at Europe and you'll get your answer. It's a continent where nations fought each other for more than 100 years, which heaped two world wars on us. Yet, it's working towards a common trade code, a common currency and other things to boost the economy. I firmly believe India and Pakistan will have no option but to work towards a similar situation to keep their economic and political interests alive; it may take two or three decades, but it'll happen.

How would you define a developed country?

Everyone in the country has to be well above the poverty line. There should be plenty of employment opportunity for all, including women and those in rural areas. There has to be basic self-reliance in strategic defence systems, so that external policy is not umbilical connected to countries through the weapons business. Self-reliance is the only answer in the defence sector. Health, education, employment too should reach one and all. There has to be effective action for old-age care. Above all, the nation should have a standing commensurate with its billion people.

Can India become a developed country?

It can and it should .It has the potential and basic capabilities. Thrust towards basic food security, self-reliance in strategic areas, speedier economic growth, and the new thrust we see in information technology are steps in the right direction.

How does one develop scientific temper in a country which can still have sati and where politicians look to astrologers to form governments?

Do not evaluate a nation by isolated incidents. In a nation of a billion people everyone has a right to practice whatever he or she thinks is right. All the nation needs is a big aim, the rest will follow. The sparks for Independence flew way back in 1857;it took us 90 years to achieve freedom but there was their major aim before the nation, which helped its people, reaches their goal. The nation needs that big aim to keep a scientific temperament alive.

But there's still the paradox: we have nuclear power, super –computer s and missiles, yet our soldiers fight in kargil in torn boots

In a large nation, such differences or paradox (as you call it) will remain. We'll only see it diminishing if we retain our tempo of development.

We also have world-class engineering schools but a pathetic record in primary education...

One very important thrust area for this decade has to be primary, secondary and higher education. Primary education has to be taken as a mission not only by the government but also by R&D establishments, public and private industries and armed forces including ex-servicemen. Secondary and higher education too should cover many more people.

How can India achieve total literacy in a reasonable time frame?

It's possible within a decade to propagate education to all parts of India by using well-proven educational methods, which have been successful in certain states, and also by using InfoTech and satellite communication.

Then again, India has pocket s of scientific excellence –ISRO or DRDO, for example –surrounded by vast areas of mediocrity...

Space technology, nuclear and defence R&D, particularly in missile and software technologies, have shown successes because they were operated with a long-term vision in mission mode with proper funding, proper leadership and project management coupled with user demand. Our agricultural growth too is impressive because of national demand and right leadership for inducting technology with farmers' participation. Similarly, software successes are driven by market demand worldwide. There are such examples in automotive components, pharma and traditional sectors like gems and jeweler and garments. We have to be selective in thrust areas and fund the right group.

What are the main hurdles to India becoming a technological power?

The problem is our 'native ' mentality. We're afraid of celebrating our people's success in various fields. Above all, there is a mind-set for propagating love for foreign goods and equipment by the well-to-do the rich, and professionals. For the nation to prosper, I still like to put forth what is said in the famous mural by Thiruvalluvar two milliennia ago:If those who think to achieve /Have a firm and focused mind/They will realize what they thought of/And ever as they have thought of"

How can we keep the best technological minds of "India from emigrating to the US?

I'm not worried about brain frain.Who cares? People will leave for obvious reasons.Who can stop them?It's the process that will continue.We can keep them by creating more challenging opportunities in the country and by recognizing best talent and performance.The nation should have a vision.It ignites the minds of the people and attracts the best.

Should we concentrate on core areas of research rather than all?Can you identify some?

The nation definitely needs to focus on specific areas and not spreas its butter too thin.I can identify five areas which should be of absolute importance-infotech,agricultural science,infrastructure,health and education.Research in these sectors needs to be a never-ending process.And that's imperative for the nation's all –round growth.

Where do we balance expenditure on defence and that on development?

Indian defence expenditure as a percentage of GNP is one of the lowest in the world.If self-reliance in technology enters the mind of the well-to-do and highly educated ,a beautiful balance will occur between income and defence expenditure as we live in an wnvironment of dual technology: what's developed for defence also has many peaceful applications .

When will India be fully equipped to protect itself?

At time when even all developed nations take us seriously in a manner they take countries like U.S.

Being a Vadic scholor ,how are the Vedas relevant in this day and age?

I read the Vedas, I read the Gita, I read Ramayana and I read Bible.And often when I read a religious and spiritual book, I see a beautiful linkage, that is the real Indian culture. For a nation with vision and having a basic prosperity for all its people, religious will become a part of the individual and fulfil his personal needs.

Does the fact that your inventions include instruments of mass destruction bother you?

It does. But at the same time, I know that the same technology which produces the missile also helps develop an instrument used to clear blocked heart arteries.Some of the best defence-related technologies have done wonders in medical science in India. Scientists at DRDO are currently turning contaminated water in Orissia into potable water. And it's the same scientists who work on defence-related programmes. Don't forget the weapons business is a beautiful business. It's a business where if you are successful, you can also influence others easily.


Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam took over from DR K R Narayanan as the 11th President of India on 25th July 2002. Born on October 15, 1931, he began his early education at a village school in the southern port of Rameshwaram. As a child , he was facinated by the flight of seagulls. He grew up on the island of Rameshwaram in South India, where his father was a boat builder.

Dr Kalam's interest in flight led to a degree in aeronautical engineering , and eventually to his supervising the development of India's guided missile programme. Along the way, he found time to write Tamil poetry and learned to play the veena.

Dr Kalam believes that as a nation India should aim to reach at least the fourth position as a developed nation by 2020 and he is of the firm opinion that nobody can help India reach there, except us.

Four milestones in his career

One : His life as a scientist

Two : To be the part of India's guided missile programme and the moment when Agni met its mission requirements in 1994

Three : The joy of participating with his team in the nuclear tests by the Department of Atomic Energy and DRDO

Four : Helping in making 300 gram Floor reaction Orthosis callipers for children in the orthopaedic centre of hospitals.


India's highest civilian Award - The Bharat Ratna in 1997 - for his immense and valuable contribution to the scientific research and modernisation of defence technology. He is the second scientist after the late Dr Homi Bhabha to receive the award

Padma vibhushan in 1990

Padma Bhusan in 1981

The first Hari Om Ashram Prerit Senior Scientist Award for 1998 for his pioneering contributions in science and technology

Arya Bhatta Award in 1994

National Design Award of the Institution of Engineers (India)

Dr Biren Roy Space Award of the Aeronautical Soceity of India

Om Prakash Bhasin Award for Science and Technology

National Nehru Award in the field of Science and Technology of the Government of Madhya Pradesh

G M Modi Award for Science

Prof Y Nayudamma Memorial Gold Medal

H K Firodia Award for Excellence in Science and Technology


Wings of Fire
India 2020
Ignited Minds


That Dr Kalam is a bachelor and a teetotaller

That as a young boy, he sold newspapers to enhance his family's income

That he recites the Holy Quran and the Bhagvad Gita daily

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