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Former President APJ Abdul Kalam passes away, nation mourns loss of People's President

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Former President APJ Abdul Kalam passed away in Shillong yesterday evening. He was 83. Known as People's President, Dr Kalam breathed his last at a hospital in Meghalaya's capital at 7.45 PM. The former President was rushed to the Bethany hospital after he collapsed during a lecture in the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong. His body is being flown to New Delhi from Guwahati this morning. Considered the most popular President, Dr Kalam became the11th head of the state and occupied the post between 2002 and 2007 during the NDA government headed Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

A pall of gloom descended on Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, the native place of Dr Kalam, as the news about his death reached his elder brother and other relatives. A large number of people gathered in front of the former President's house to offer their condolences and mourn his death.

Government has announced a 7-day state mourning throughout the country as a mark of respect to the former President. An official statement said New Delhi that during the period of the mourning, the national flag will fly at half-mast on all the buildings throughout the country where it is flown regularly and there will be no official entertainment.

President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and a host of dignitaries have condoled the death of Dr Kalam. In a message, President Pranab Mukherjee said Dr Kalam was immensely popular and greatly admired and his warmth, humility and simple ways endeared him to one and all. Mr Mukherjee said, Dr Kalam had a special love for children and sought to constantly inspire the youth of the country through motivational speeches and personal interaction.

Vice President Hamid Ansari said, Dr Kalam was a true son of India and his contributions to the nation, in his capacity as a man of technology, a teacher and a leader will be deeply cherished by a grateful nation. He said, Dr Kalam was the guide of India’s space and missile programs and his efforts saw India become a front ranking power in these spheres.

In his message, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, India mourns the loss of a great scientist, a wonderful President and above all an inspiring individual. He said, Dr Kalam enjoyed being with people and people and youngsters adored him. Mr Modi said, he loved students and spent his final moments among them.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said, Dr Kalam was the missile man of India and after relinquishing the charge of President of India, he relentlessly taught science to the youth of our country. She said, in his death, the country has lost a true patriot, world renowned scientist and original thinker who served the nation with distinction.

BJP President Amit Shah, Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior BJP leader LK Advani have also condoled the death of Dr Kalam.

Born in a humble family on 15th October in 1931 at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, A P J Abdul Kalam went on to become the People's President of India. The Aeronautical Engineer from Madras Institute of Technology is considered the brain behind India's missile programme.

During his tenure as Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister from July 1992 to December 1999, he led the weaponisation of strategic missile systems and the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, which made India a nuclear weapon state. In 1997, Dr Kalam was conferred Bharat Ratna,the highest civilian awards.

He became the 11th President of India in 2002, with a focus to transform India into a developed nation by 2020. In a recent interview to All India Radio, Dr Kalam said, India will be an economic leader if agriculture, small scale industries, and solar power are developed simultaneously.

Dr Kalam authored numerous inspirational books including India 2020, Wings Of Fire and Ignited Minds. He utilised every opportunity that came to him to address students, especially school children, to dream big. To his last day, Dr Kalam was zealous in his pursuit of igniting young minds. His passing away is the end of an era. With Anupam Mishra, Suparna Saikia, Air News, Delhi.

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