Dr APJ Abdul Kalam's vision of transforming India through students

Oinam Nabakishore Singh *

 Dr APJ Abdul Kalam visit to Bunglawn (Bunglon), Churachandpur  :: 16th October 2006
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam visit to Bunglawn (Bunglon), Churachandpur in October 2006 :: Pix - Gin Gangte

Dr. A P J Kalam died while doing what he wanted to do in the premises of Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Shillong on 27th July, 2015-teaching the students. While in office as President of India or after leaving that office, his passion was to interact with students not only to motivate them to do good for the country, but also to get their ideas and suggestions on issues confronting the nation. He appreciated the creative ideas and solutions from any source including a small school going child.

While addressing the students in a programme organized by TV channel, Asianetnews in 2012 in Thiruvananthapuram, Dr. Kalam stated that India was in a mission of impartingskill and knowledge to 150 million youths before 2020. He suggested that when a student comes out of school after 12th Class, he/she should have two certificates-one of academic achievement and another of skill acquisition in 9-12th standards. He further said that 25% of the curriculum in these standards should be skill-based syllabus so that a student was employable on graduation from school.

On the need for realization of uniqueness of individuals, Dr. Kalam narrated the inventions and discoveries of scientists like C.V. Raman, Thomas Alva Edison, Graham Bell, Madame Curie, etc. He also said that based on his interaction with more than thirty million youths, he learnt that the world around students is doing their best, day and night, to make them just like everybody else. He also added that students wanted to be unique.

He listed four qualities to be unique- great aims, continuous acquisition of knowledge through great books, great teachers, hard work and perseverance.

On a question by a seventh standard student regarding the strengths and weaknesses of India, Dr. Kalam replied that 600 million youths of India with ignited minds were the strengths and a nation without vision was the weakness. In reply to another query by a student on the best achievement by Dr. Kalam-as a space scientist or President of India, he replied that he was happiest when his student received a Ph.D. degree. It means that happiness of Dr. Kalam lies in being a teacher.

On choice of course and career, he urged the students to pursue courses in which they had their passion and dream. He also emphasized on excellence in education while being a student.A young student asked Dr. Kalam as to how to remove corruption in the society. In reply, Dr. Kalam asked the young students to stand up against their parents who are corrupt. He expected the youths to become an anti-corruption brigade in the country. On the role of media, he wanted them to highlight the success stories of farmers, fisherman, etc. instead of indulging in sensational news.

In another interaction, a student asked Dr. Kalam, "What inspired you the most". Dr. Kalam said that his school science teacher, Shri Shiva SubramaniaIyer, while he was only ten years old and in 5th standard,one day drew a sketch of bird on the blackboard and explained as to how a bird flew. The students were taken to the seashore by the teacher and flight of birds by flapping wings was shown. On that day, Dr. Kalam knew not only how a bird flew, but also his aim in life was shaped.He was again asked if he had any doubt, at any point of time of his life, about his ability. In reply, Dr. Kalam stressed the need to have great teachers and books as friends.

In another interaction with students from some colleges of Delhi just after his term as President of India, Dr. Kalam asked them to tell him what for they should be remembered. A girl replied that she would give all she had to the service of the country, and she also added that Dr. Kalam would be remembered for simple living and high thinking. By asking such questions to the young people, Dr. Kalam wanted them to reflect on their goals in life. He was also indirectly goading them to think about the sacrifices and services for the nation.

On the vision to make India a developed nation by 2020, Dr. Kalam identified five areas which required highest priority. These areas are agriculture and agro-processing, education, especially education of women, health care, and having critical technology. Dr. Kalam played an important role in deciding on nuclear tests carried out by India in 1998 at Pokhran to be recognized as a nuclear state in spite of the risks of sanctions including technological sanction.

When he was asked about possession of nuclear weapons, he took the position-strength respects respect. It is true that unless a nation is powerful, no other nation will respect that nation. After the successful nuclear tests, India joined the exclusive club of nuclear nations and received greater respect. Dr. Kalam emphasized on moral education for a peaceful world.

In his interview for Knowledge@Wharton, Dr. Kalam listed six qualities to be a great leader. First quality, according to him, is that the leader should have a vision. Second, the leader must be able to travel to an unexplored path. Third, the leader must know as to how to manage success, and more importantly failure.

He narrated as to how the then Chairman of Indian Space Research Organization, Satish Dhawan, owned the failure of launch of Rohini satellite in 1979 when Dr. Kalam was Mission Director, and gave credit to his juniors when the subsequent launch was successful in 1980. Fourth, the leader must have courage to take decisions. Fifth, the leader should have nobility in management. Every action of the leader must be transparent. The leader should work with integrity and succeed with integrity.

The leader should be always in touch with people. While Dr. Kalam was President of India, he was always in touch with people from different walks of life, especially youths. He did travelled to length and breadth of the vast country to understand the land and people and interact with them.

After leaving the office of the President of India, Dr. Kalam devoted his life to the education of students. His strong belief was to transform India through education and inspiration of students, being the future pillars of the nation. At the advanced age, he took the trouble of travelling long hours just to teach the students. In his last journey to Shillong, he travelled from Delhi to Guwahati by plane for two and a half hour, and then by car from Guwahati to Shillong for two and a half hour in the meandering hilly road.

Dr. Kalam was almost 84 years old in July, 2015 when he was travelling to IIM, Shillong. Such long journey will have a huge telling effect on the health of an aged person like Dr. Kalam. However, Dr. Kalam just on arrival at IIM, Shillong proceeded to the podium to address the students without taking any rest as he did not want to keep the students waiting. Within two minutes of commencement of lecture, Dr. Kalam collapsed at the podium on account of cardiac arrest and breathed his last.

It will be our befitting tribute to Dr. Kalam to take the path shown by him on several occasions. He will forever remain shining in the sky as Pole Star to show the direction to the sailors in the ocean of life.

Views expressed are personal.

* Oinam Nabakishore Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted 07 November, 2018 .

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