Former President APJ Abdul Kalam, the ‘Missile Man’ who became popular as ‘People’s President’ died on Monday after he suffered a massive cardiac arrest and collapsed during a lecture at the IIM here this evening.
APJ Abdul Kalam, who would have turned 84 in October, was confirmed dead more than two hours after he was wheeled into the ICU of Bethany hospital in a critical condition following the collapse at around 6.30 PM.
Arriving at the Indian Institute of Management around 5.40 PM, he took rest for sometime and started the lecture on ‘Livable Planet’ at 6.35 pm. He collapsed five minutes later, according to Director, IIM-Shillong, Prof De. Kalam last tweeted “Going to Shillong to take course on livable planet at IIM.”
He was admitted to the Bethany hospital at 7 PM, a km away from the institute. De said the hospital authority told him that Kalam died due to cardiac arrest.
The body was taken to the Military Hospital and will be kept there for the night. It will be taken by an Air Force helicopter to Guwahati at 5.30 am on Tuesday and from there to Delhi by a special aircraft.
Considered the most popular President, APJ Abdul Kalam became the 11th head of the state and occupied the post between 2002 and 2007 but lack of consensus denied a second term in office for a man who came from outside the rough and tumble of politics.
Meghalaya Governor V Shanmughanathan, who rushed to the hospital on hearing the news of his admission, said Kalam died at 7.45 pm. Despite medical team best efforts, he could not be revived.
Chief Secretary P B O Warjiri told reporters outside the hospital that he had spoken to Union Home Secretary L C Goyal asking for necessary arrangements to be made for carrying Kalam’s body from Guwahati to Delhi tomorrow morning.
“The former President has been admitted to Bethany hospital in a critical condition,” M Kharkrang, SP Khasi Hills said earlier.
Doctors from the army hospital and North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) rushed to Bethany hospital but their efforts proved to be of no avail.
A seven-day national mourning will be declared by the Centre, Union Home Secretary L C Goyal said. Both the Houses of Parliament are likely to make obituary references and adjourn as a mark of respect to his memory.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Ministers and leaders cutting across political lines condoled Kalam’s death and hailed him as people’s President who will remain so even after death. Modi described him as ‘marg darshak’.
A Bharat Ratna, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam rose from humble origins to become the President in the most unexpected manner during the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His victory was a foregone conclusion after an all party consensus minus the left parties which fielded Captain Lakshmi Seghal of the INA fame.
Born in 1931 in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu in a poor family, he studied aeronautics engineering from Madras Institute of Technology-Madras.
Kalam was considered the brain of missile programme in India and as Chief Scientific Adviser to Vajpayee he was also instrumental in the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998.
He had the distinction of becoming the first President to fly a Sukhoi fighter jet, go in a submarine and visit high-altitude Siachen besides LoC. He was also the first President to address the Indian Science Congress in 90 years.
As President, Kalam utilised any opportunity that came to him to address students, especially school children, to dream big so that they became achievers in life.
A bachelor, the former President was a veena player and was deeply interested in Carnatic music. He was a vegetarian all his life.