APJ Abdul Kalam dies, India mourns ‘People’s President’


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Former president and Bharat Ratna APJ Abdul Kalam died on Monday after collapsing during a lecture in Shillong.

Kalam, 83, collapsed during a speech at the IIM Shillong and was rushed to the  nearby Bethany Hospital where doctors put him on oxygen and tried to revive him.

“He was brought into hospital without a pulse or BP. There was no sign of life John Sailo Ryntathiang, director of Bethany Hospital,” told the Quint.

Kalam served as president for five years from 2002, enjoying the support of both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress.

Kalam  was closely involved in the country’s civilian space programme and military missile development efforts, earning him the sobriquet  ‘India’s Missile Man’.  He worked as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) before he became president.

He also played a pivotal technical and political role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, shortly after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government came to power.

After his term, he returned to a life of education, writing, and public service. He received several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor.

The Centre has declared a national mourning of seven days.

“Dr. Kalam was a man of impeccable character, indomitable spirit, profound knowledge and firm conviction. His death is an irreparable loss to this nation. He has left a big void hard to fill,” said home minister Rajnath Singh.

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 in a poor Tamil Muslim family in Rameswaram. But he overcame all odds to study physics and aerospace engineering.

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