Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Former President APJ Abdul Kalam passes away in the city he loved

Former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam died in Shillong, a city he loved, at 7.45pm on Monday. He was 83. Kalam collapsed on the stage at the Indian Institute of Management here at 6.30pm while speaking to students during a seminar on 'Livable Planet Earth'. He was taken to the privately-run Bethany Hospital.

"The former president was brought to hospital at 6.52pm and he passed away at 7.45pm," Dr John Sailo said.

Kalam's body was taken to Guwahati in an Army helicopter on Tuesday morning, and from there being taken to Delhi. Meghalaya governor V Shanmuganathan is accompanying Kalam's body to Delhi.

The former president, a scientist who was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1997, had arrived in Guwahati from Delhi on Monday morning. He reached IIM-Shillong, where he was visiting faculty, at 6pm by road from Guwahati, covering about 100km. He was supposed to interact with the students till 10.40pm and scheduled to interact with PG students from 10am to 12.30pm on Tuesday before returning to Delhi.

A faculty member at IIM-Shillong said Kalam, India's 11th president from 2002-2007, had been visiting the institute to teach PG students for the last three years. "Students and the faculty liked the way he taught. We are saddened by the demise of one of India's greatest personalities," he added.

Meghalaya CM Mukul Sangma, who is in Delhi, said it was a "sad day" for the country and the state. "He loved Meghalaya, and the state will miss him tremendously. He visited the state quite often and his generosity in sharing his immense wisdom has benefitted many youngsters. His humility while interacting with people from all walks of life will always be remembered," he added.

Shanmuganathan was among the first to reach the hospital. Assam and Nagaland Governor P B Acharya said the nation has suffered a great loss in the demise of Kalam. Acharya said Kalam is not only a former president but also a highly respected scientist.

Many in the Northeast recalled Kalam's inspiring speech at the 14th convocation of IIT-Guwahati in 2012. He had then said he wanted to see a "silent" Brahmaputra emerging into a "smart" waterway in the country.

"The Brahmaputra is very close to me. Yesterday, and even today, I visited the river. It is a silent river with limited activities. My dream is to see the Brahmaputra become a smart waterway in the country," Kalam had said.

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