Paying rich tributes to 'people's President' APJ Abdul Kalam on his 84th birth anniversary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said a memorial to honour him and inspire future generations would be built in his birthplace Rameswaram, which will be developed as AMRUT city.
The Prime Minister exhorted the scientific community, especially the youngsters, to come up with innovations to ease the common man's life, drawing inspiration from Kalam who had built great institutions from scratch.
He mentioned several vital sectors where innovation was essential, including cyber-security, housing for all, river-linking, enhancing agricultural productivity, blue economy, and 'zero-defect, zero-effect' manufacturing.
Describing Kalam as a "Rashtra-ratna" before being a "Rashtrapati", Modi, who was speaking at a function organised by DRDO, said the former President always looked for "challenges" and his life is a source of inspiration for all Indians.
The Prime Minister said that a memorial for Kalam would be built at Rameswaram, to inspire future generations.
He added that government has already acquired the land for the memorial and a committee of Ministers has been set up to discuss modalities in this regard.
Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu said Rameswaram would be converted into AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation scheme) city.
The Prime Minister said that while most people look for opportunities in life, Kalam always sought fresh challenges to overcome. He recalled how he worked closely with Kalam during the post-earthquake reconstruction work in Kutch.
Recalling that Kalam wished to be remembered as a teacher, the Prime Minister said that the former President was well aware of the importance of nurturing future generations.
On Kalam's birth anniversary, "one must explore how we can encourage innovation in India," he said.
Speaking about various sectors, Modi hoped that India can turn itself into one of the main hubs for cyber security, which has become a global concern.
Modi said Kalam had not only risen from humble beginnings to the highest office in India, but had also built great institutions, virtually from scratch. He said everyone should draw inspiration from his example.
Modi said Kalam had child-like qualities and he always made sure to interact with youngsters and to inspire them.
Earlier, the Prime Minister unveiled a bust of A P J Abdul Kalam at DRDO Bhavan. He inaugurated a photo exhibition titled – 'A Celebration of Dr Kalam's Life'. The Prime Minister also released a commemorative postal stamp on Kalam.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Communication and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan were among the dignitaries present on the occasion.
Kalam, known as the father of India's missile programme, was President from 2002 to 2007. He died of cardiac arrest on July 27 this year.
Modi said while others try to avoid visiting Northeast on one pretext or the other, Kalam, even after retiring long ago, was in the region as a teacher when he passed away. "This shows his commitment".
In a lighter vein, he also said one could recognise Kalam from far away because of his hairstyle.
Modi said Kalam always believed in a strong India "but not strong by weapons only".
"Borders of a country do not decide its identity but its strength is decided by how capable its people are," Modi said.
The Prime Minister noted that Kalam was a great promoter of education and he always used to talk about the importance of Yoga. "He wanted to convert religion into spiritualism. Spiritualism should be given primacy and this was his conviction," Modi said.
"Kalam Saheb was the one who always looked for challenges, which he continued doing till the end of his life," Modi said.
Hailing the former President's rich contribution, Modi said the void left by his absence can only be filled by following his teachings in true spirit.
"Just two days after leaving the Presidency, after such a big position, he went to teach. This can't happen without an inherent commitment.... Our young scientists should get inspired by the way shown by Dr Kalam," he said.
Before becoming the President, Kalam had spent four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
He was involved in India's civilian space programme and military missile development efforts, earning him the title of 'Missile man'.
"Today we salute A P J Abdul Kalam and celebrate his monumental achievements as a scientist, scholar and the President of India.
"We fondly remember his passion for teaching and education. Dr. Kalam truly ignited young minds with the power to think and innovate. Dr. Kalam is not with us today but his thoughts, ideals and vision for India live on forever," Modi had tweeted prior to the event.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi also paid tributes to Kalam.
Describing him as a leader who drove India's scientific advancement, she said Kalam's contributions will forever remain unparalleled.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar called upon the scientific community to realise and fulfil Kalam's dream of developing India into a knowledge super power by 2020.
Delivering his welcome speech, Parrikar said "true tribute to the great leader is to fulfil his dream".
He expressed hope that the scientific community will derive the inspiration from the life, achievements and dedication towards his dream for a self-reliant India.
In his book 'India 2020', Kalam highlighted action plans to develop India into knowledge super power by the year 2020.
Parrikar added Kalam was a great writer and had ignited millions of young minds through his thought provoking and influential writings.
Kalam always enjoyed the company of young students and children and his writings increased the interest of young students in science and technology to make it a career, and it was due to his initiative that there is increased interest in basic sciences today, he said.
Describing Kalam as the 'Father of Missiles', Parrikar said that his research and educational leadership prompted the Indian government to initiate the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, which led to the simultaneous and successful development of wide range of missiles and brought great laurels and prestige to the nation.
"His sustained guidance has been the driving force behind India's leap in the defence technology. Kalam during his tenure as a Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister played an organisational, pivotal and intensive technological role in conducting the Pokhran II Nuclear Test. He also had a successful stint as the Project Director of India's First Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV)," Parrikar said.
The journey from a newspaper boy to a scientist and then the President of India has inspired every Indian to dream big and work hard with dedication for that dream to come true, he added.