Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Housing and Urban Affairs Shri Hardeep Singh Puri today delivered the 3rd memorial lecture on Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.
Shri Puri said that Dr Kalam represented the best of India who was able to successfully bring along diverse traditions, disciplines, and peoples to create a life story that inspired the 1.3 billion people of India. He said that wherever he went and whomever he spoke with, he exuded optimism and positivity. In today’s environment of cynicism and hyper-polarisation, it may do us all some good to remember Dr. Kalam.
Describing his association with Dr Kalam, Shri Puri said that he had the privilege of working with the Dr Kalam when he was the Scientific Advisor to the Raksha Mantri and he was a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Defence. The Minister said that Bharat Ratna Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam personified the ideals of diversity and cooperation, apart from having been one of India’s leading defence scientists and spearheading our nation’s missile programme, among many other achievements.
Shri Puri said that Dr Kalam was a humble man, who achieved great professional successes that helped shape the nation and chart its course in the 21st century. At the same time, his personal story of integrity, intellect, and charm influenced the lives of so many Indians directly and indirectly. Dr. Kalam received the admiration, respect, and love from all, and continues to receive even today.
Describing Dr Kalam as embodying the idea of India, Shri Puri said that he was a role model for the world. He represented the multitudes that encompass the diversity of this great nation – he was a devout Muslim, but he was also deeply spiritual, and promoted inter-faith dialogue and syncretism; he was a visionary scientist who developed cutting-edge satellite technology but also advocated for development in rural areas; he was India’s ‘Missile Man’ who enhanced India’s space and defence capabilities, but also dedicated his life towards furthering peace. And most significantly, he was the ‘People’s President’ who left an indelible mark on our citizens through his endearing passion and commitment for a better world, and India first.
The Minister said that Dr Kalam redefined the role of the President by aligning himself to unifying causes that motivated and empowered India’s citizens. Even after his term, he contributed significantly to our development agenda as a statesman through his advocacy for better infrastructure and greater access to healthcare. He inspired millions of young Indian students towards national service through his ‘What Can I Give’ movement.
Shri Puri said that we have come a long way on the roadmap that Dr. Kalam had laid out for India. Whether it is infrastructure creation or national security; education or space exploration, the Government of India, under the under the leadership of Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi is on the path towards self-reliance and sustainable economic growth which is going to position India as a superpower. Be it in the construction of houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, or reaching universal sanitation through the Swachh Bharat Mission, or gaining energy sufficiency through the Ujjwala scheme, this Government has built a strong infrastructural foundation. Through the Shyama Prasad Mookherji RURBAN Mission, this Government is realising Dr. Kalam’s vision of creating rural areas with urban-like infrastructure, and is helping stimulate local economic development, enhance basic services, and create well-planned villages.
Shri Puri said that today, in India, the Modi Government, guided by the philosophy of ‘Antyodaya Se Sarvodaya’ is delivering direct cash transfers and subsidies for food, cooking gas, ration, and displacement and disaster relief, among other social benefits. Using the shared digital infrastructure of JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhar, Mobile), this Government has revolutionised social welfare programming by creating leakage-free mechanisms that promote delivery to the needy. More than Rs. 1.78 lakh crores have been saved by adopting the direct transfer model, and the efficacy of this scheme was realised during the COVID-19 pandemic when millions of Indians benefitted from the Government’s proactive interventions. He said that 100 Crore vaccinations mark will be soon achieved.
Remembering Dr Kalam for the clarity of leadership that he brought to the table, Shri Puri said he deftly handled stakeholders from the political, scientific, and administrative streams in making ‘Operation Shakti’ a success. Dr. Kalam was instrumental in unshackling the defence sector. His ardent support for being self-sufficient and developing indigenous technologies to strengthen our defence capabilities was a catalyst in the Government reducing its dependence on the imports of defence equipment, and in essence, refusing to kowtow to the international diktat of the time that frequently ignored India’s interests. Shri Puri said that in many ways, what Dr. Kalam advocated was the ‘AatmaNirbhar’ path that we are on now. Dr. Kalam strongly endorsed increasing India’s self-sufficiency in important aspects of nation-building. He laid out this vision in his ‘India 2020’ roadmap which identified five areas where India had to build core competencies: Agriculture and Food Processing; Education and Healthcare; Information and Communication Technology; Infrastructure, reliable and quality electric power, and surface transport for all parts of the country; and Self-reliance in critical technologies.