For his achievements, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan and Bharat Ratna, and then he became the 11th President of India in 2002.
Dr Kalam was born in Rameswaram on October 15, 1931, to a poor family. His father was a boatman and was a devout Muslim who used to rent out boats to local fishermen and was also good friend of Hindu religious leaders and the school. Though his life is an open book, there are few unknown facts about him which most of us don’t know.
1. Kalam as a scientist in DRDO
Kalam joined Aeronautical Development Establishment of Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) as a scientist. His first achievement in his career was designing a small helicopter for the Indian Army, though he remained unconvinced and dissatisfied with the choice of his job at DRDO.
2. Kalam was a part of country’s first nuclear test
Kalam without participating in its development, test site preparation and weapon designing was invited by Raja Ramanna to witness the country’s first nuclear test Smiling Buddha as the representative of TBRL.
3. Kalam was criticized for lackadaisical approach towards his Presidential post
Kalam was judged for inaction as a President in deciding the fate of 20 out of the 21 mercy petitions. According to the Article 72, of the Constitution of India, the President of India has the power to grant pardon, suspend and remit death sentences and commute the death sentence of convicts on death row. But he didn’t apply those powers on the mercy petitions of the 20 convicts.
4. His harassment at New York airport
The most insulting day for every Indians when former President APJ Abdul Kalam was twice subjected to harassment at New York’s JFK Airport by the US security officers. Dr Kalam was forced to take his jacket and shoes off for security checking for explosives. Then the 80-year-old Kalam was in the United States in September to attend a series of events and the incident took place on September 29 at the time of his returning home from New York. After taking his seat in the aircraft, officials of the JFK Airport came inside and asked to check the President once again. Air India authorities along with all the Indians strongly protested the heinous act.
5. Kalam the stalwart
Most of us don’t know that Dr. Kalam is an incredible writer and has written many inspirational books. They are-Wings of fire [His autobiography], 2020- A Vision for the New Millennium, Envisioning an Empowered Nation, Ignited Minds, My Journey, Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technology, The Luminous Sparks, The Life Tree, Mission India, Children Ask Kalam, Guiding Souls, Indomitable Spirit and Inspiring Thoughts. These books are treasure for every Indians.
6. Pokhran-II tests controversy
The controversy that hovered around Kalam’s role as a nuclear scientist is the lack of reliable and factual reporting of the yield of Pokhran-II tests. K. Santhanam, the director of the site test, publicly declared that the thermonuclear bomb was a “fizzle” test, and criticized Kalam for issuing the wrong report. But Kalam dismissed the claims and, a key associate of Pokhran-II, R. Chidambaram also certify these claims as incorrect.
7. Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant issue
Kalam was also disparaged by civil groups over his stand on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, where he encouraged setting up of the nuclear power plant without discussing the situation with the local people.
8. The Youth Icon
In 2003 and in 2006 he was nominated for the MTV Youth Icon of the Year award.
9. Part of an inspirational film
I Am Kalam which was released in 2011 is an inspirational Hindi film. Here Kalam is portrayed as an extremely positive influence to a poor but bright Rajasthani boy Chhotu, who renames himself Kalam in honour of his idol.
10. The awards and honors
The Government of India has honoured him with the Padma Bhushanin 1981 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1990 for his work with ISRO and DRDO and his role as a scientific advisor to the Government. APJ Abdul Kalam has received India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, for his immensely precious contribution to the scientific research and modernization of defense technology in India.