New Delhi (IANS): President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation on Tuesday in paying tributes to former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who died on Monday.
Thousands of people visited the official residence of the ‘Missile Man’ here to pay their last respects to the “people’s president” who collapsed while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong on Monday evening.
The two houses of parliament were adjourned for two days as a mark of respect to Kalam as political parties gratefully recalled his contributions to the nation.
(Kalam was laid to rest on Thursday in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu with full military honours in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other leaders.)
The union cabinet met in the morning to formally pay tributes to Kalam who rose from humble beginnings to become one of India’s leading scientists and later a popular president.
Kalam’s body, wrapped in the Tricolour, arrived on Tuesday at the Palam technical area of the Indira Gandhi International Airport around 12.30 p.m. in a special Indian Air Force plane.
After a ceremonial guard of honour in the presence of the three service chiefs, Kalam’s mortal remains were brought in an army vehicle to his official residence at 10, Rajaji Marg in central Delhi.
Thousands of people visited his residence to pay homage, as cries of “Abdul Kalam amar rahe” and “Long live Abdul Kalam” rent the air.
The prime minister and the president went to the airport to pay tributes to the late leader.
Other dignitaries present at the airport included Vice President Hamid Ansari, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Delhi Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
In a touching gesture, Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, 96, went to the airport to lay a wreath on the mortal remains.
Kejriwal announced that the Delhi government will name its scheme after Kalam that will provide educational loan up to one million rupees.
Modi, who addressed a meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentary party on Tuesday, said Kalam was “rashtra ratna” (national jewel) and his “personality was special”.
Kalam was president from 2002-2007 and assumed the highest office when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was in power.
“His life inspires us; it inspires the youth,” Modi said.
The former president died on Monday evening in a private hospital in Shillong after he collapsed while delivering a lecture on ‘Liveable Planet’ to students of the Indian Institute of Managment, Shillong.
After the Lok Sabha met on Tuesday morning, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan read out a condolence message and said Kalam was a “real gem” of the country and a “sagacious statesman”.
In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari said the country had lost a true son.
“His contributions to the nation as a man of technology, a teacher and a leader will be deeply cherished by a grateful nation,” he said.
The union cabinet, which met on Tuesday to pay its condolences to Kalam, said the country lost a visionary scientist, a true nationalist and a great son.
Some schools in the national capital declared a holiday on Tuesday in Kalam’s memory.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said Kalam’s message was not to declare holiday on his death but work extra.
The state government requested all educational institutions and government offices to function for an extra hour as a mark of respect for Kalam.
The Telangana government, however, declared a holiday.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted: “Worked whole day as a tribute to Dr. Kalam; he preached work is worship. Though postponed public events, will do after mourning period.”
Born on October 15, 1931 at Rameswaram, Kalam specialised in aeronautical engineering from Madras Institute of Technology. He was the recipient of many national and international awards and received the country’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, in 1997.
ONTARIO Premier Kathleen Wynne released the following statement:
“On behalf of the government of Ontario, I want to express my deepest condolences on the passing of former President Abdul Kalam.
“Dr. Kalam was a man of many accomplishments. As a respected scientist, he played a critical role in the development of the Indian space program. As a committed educator, he inspired millions of young people to achieve their very best. And as a devoted leader, he gained support both at home and abroad, becoming known as “the people’s President.”
“Ontario played host to the former president on many occasions, and in 2010 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from the University of Waterloo.
“I join our Indo-Canadian families, friends and neighbours in mourning the passing of this respected leader.”
IN October 2012, Abdul Kalam received an honorary degree from Simon Fraser University in B.C.
His citation read: “A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is a former president of India, aerospace engineer, professor, writer, world statesman and internationally renowned scientist and technologist who is passionate about the power of science to solve problems in ways that transcend ideology and religion.
“Kalam started life from humble beginnings as the son of a boat maker in Rameswaram, in India’s southernmost state of Tamil Nadu. He studied physics at the Jesuit-founded St. Joseph’s College in Tiruchirappalli and aerospace engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology in Chennai.
“Before becoming president, he worked as an award-winning aerospace engineer and he is popularly known as India’s “missile man” for his work developing ballistic missile technologies. He also played a central role in many of India’s other technological breakthroughs and assisted in the concept of landing the moon probe Chandrayan-1 in 2008.
“From 2002-07, Kalam served as India’s president with the support of both of the country’s major political parties, earning the nickname “the people’s president” for his integrity, commitment and passion for improving the lives his country’s poorest people.
“During his five-year presidency, he focused India’s efforts on transforming from a developing to a developed nation by 2020. He also provided a strategy for India’s energy independence by 2030. His book India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium is popular throughout India.
“ … He has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, the King Charles II medal of the Royal Society and the Hoover Medal, America’s top engineering prize, of which he was the first Asian recipient.”