29 July 2015

India As Knowledge Superpower - Goal For Former President And Scientist

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam "Do not declare a holiday on my death. Instead work an extra day, if you love me". The man behind these words was the former Indian president A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, who passed away Monday.

Abdul Kalam wanted India to become a knowledge superpower, and my impression is that his goal will be reached. There is a reason we have a Office in India! My Indian colleague Rituka Rimza will tell you more about this popular scientist and politician.

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was born in 1931, and even if he was the president of India between 2002 and 2007 he dedicated most of his life to science. He studied physics and aerospace engineering and later became a leader of the Defence Research and Development Organisation. He also administered the Indian Space Research Organisation, which last year sent a spacecraft to Mars.

Internationally Abdul Kalam was well known and respected, and he received many awards for his work. In 2005, when Kalam visited France and Switzerland, the world's largest physics laboratory, CERN, declared 26 May to be a Science Day in his honor.

In spite of his fame, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was a very simple person. In his childhood he used to sell newspapers to support his family and to afford his education. At that time he often ate at a small restaurant in front of which a cobbler used to sit on the road, and it is significant for Abdul Kalam that he did not forget the cobbler and the owner of the restaurant when he became president. Instead he invited them to be his guests in the presidential palace at several occasions. India 202 book

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was not only a giant in his special field but also took an active interest in the development of other scientific areas than his own. In his book India 2020 he set an action plan to develop India into a knowledge superpower.

He realized that the whole of India must be included if this goal should be reached, so he let his salary go into a trust called Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas, which works for rural development in India.

During his presidency, Abdul Kalam was known as the "People's President", and his whole career was distinguished by his aim to improve conditions for the Indian people. He liked to teach, and he passed away while lecturing.

I am glad he did not have to suffer but instead died when fully engaged in a situation he enjoyed after a long, eventful life. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam will be remembered with fondness and gratitude.
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Rituka Rimza
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