New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation on Tuesday in paying tributes to former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who died on Monday.
Thousands of people visited the official residence of the ‘Missile Man’ here to pay their last respects to the “people’s president” who collapsed while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong on Monday evening.
The two houses of parliament were adjourned for two days as a mark of respect to Kalam as political parties gratefully recalled his contributions to the nation.
The union cabinet met in the morning to formally pay tributes to Kalam who rose from humble beginnings to become one of India’s leading scientists and later a popular president.
Kalam’s body, wrapped in the Tricolour, arrived on Tuesday at the Palam technical area of the Indira Gandhi International Airport around 12.30 p.m. in a special Indian Air Force plane.
After a ceremonial guard of honour in the presence of the three service chiefs, Kalam’s mortal remains were brought in an army vehicle to his official residence at 10, Rajaji Marg in central Delhi.
Thousands of people visited his residence to pay homage, as cries of “Abdul Kalam amar rahe” and “Long live Abdul Kalam” rent the air.
The prime minister and the president went to the airport to pay tributes to the late leader.
Other dignitaries present at the airport included Vice President Hamid Ansari, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Delhi Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
In a touching gesture, Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, 96, went to the airport to lay a wreath on the mortal remains.
Kejriwal announced that the Delhi government will name its scheme after Kalam that will provide educational loan up to Rs.10 lakh.
Modi, who addressed a meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentary party on Tuesday, said Kalam was “rashtra ratna” (national jewel) and his “personality was special”.
Kalam was president from 2002-2007 and assumed the highest office when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was in power.
“His life inspires us; it inspires the youth,” Modi said.
The former president died on Monday evening in a private hospital in Shillong after he collapsed while delivering a lecture on ‘Liveable Planet’ to students of the Indian Institute of Managment, Shillong.
Kalam will be accorded a state funeral with full military honours at 11 a.m. on Thursday at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
His family had wished that his last rites be performed in his hometown. Officials said his mortal remains will reach Rameswaram on Wednesday evening.
After the Lok Sabha met on Tuesday morning, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan read out a condolence message and said Kalam was a “real gem” of the country and a “sagacious statesman”.
In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari said the country had lost a true son.
“His contributions to the nation as a man of technology, a teacher and a leader will be deeply cherished by a grateful nation,” he said.
Both houses will now have their next sitting on July 30.
The union cabinet, which met on Tuesday to pay its condolences to Kalam, said the country lost a visionary scientist, a true nationalist and a great son.
Some schools in the national capital declared a holiday on Tuesday in Kalam’s memory.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said Kalam’s message was not to declare holiday on his death but work extra.
The state government requested all educational institutions and government offices to function for an extra hour as a mark of respect for Kalam.
The Telangana government, however, declared a holiday.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted: “Worked whole day as a tribute to Dr. Kalam; he preached work is worship. Though postponed public events, will do after mourning period.”
Born on October 15, 1931 at Rameswaram, Kalam specialised in aeronautical engineering from Madras Institute of Technology. He was the recipient of many national and international awards and received the country’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, in 1997.