Former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, renowned as the “people’s president,” passed away Monday after collapsing while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong. He was 83.
Dr. Kalam, who served as the president from 2002 until 2007, was the frontman in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in May 1998. He was also fielded as the National Democratic Alliance candidate by the then Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee.
Patricia Mukhim, editor of the Shillong Times, posted on Facebook that Dr. Kalam had died when he was brought into the Bethany hospital in Shillong.
According to NDTV, hospital sources said, “President Dr. Kalam was brought to the hospital at 7 pm. When he brought in there was no sign of life. He was taken to ICU to try and revive him, which was futile.”
Dr. Kalam visited Shillong every year to give lectures. The subject for this year’s lecture was “Making the World More Livable,” Mukhim wrote in her Facebook post.
The government will declare a seven-day national mourning, as reported by the Press Trust of India, quoting Union Home Secretary LC Goel. On Tuesday, Dr. Kalam’s body will be brought back to Delhi.
“My mind is filled with so many memories, so many interactions with him. Always marvelled at his intellect, learnt so much from him,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
The death of Dr. Kalam is an irreparable loss to this nation. He has left a big void hard to fill. I deeply mourn his death. RIP Kalam Sahab
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) July 27, 2015
According to IIM-S officials, Dr. Kalam did not exhibit any sign of any threatening illness when he arrived in Shillong Monday morning.
“We had a packed house for the lecture on Liveable Planet Earth,” an official said.
Dr. Kalam had also tweeted about the function in the morning prior to delivering the lecture.
According to Hindustan Times, Dr. Kalam’s most notable achievement was his close involvement with India’s civilian space program and military missile development efforts. For this, he was regarded as “India’s Missile Man.” Prior to becoming president, he worked as a scientist and science administrator at the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). He was also involved in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in May 1998, shortly after former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s party came to power.
He has also been awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor. He returned to the field of education after serving as president.
“As president of India, Dr. Dr. Kalam was immensely popular and greatly admired. His warmth, humility and simple ways endeared him to one and all. He had a special love for children and sought to constantly inspire the youth of our country through motivational speeches and personal interaction,” President Pranab Mukherjee said.
Dr. Kalam, born in Rameswaram on Oct 15, 1931, was a bright student whose passion in flying motivated him to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering.
He has also written 10 books. His autobiography, Wings of Fire, was released in 1999.
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