Isn't the Aakash Institute good for engineering


Stefan Mentschel

To person

Stefan Mentschel is a political scientist, freelance author and journalist. After studying at the Free University, doing a traineeship and working as an editor in Berlin, he now lives and works in New Delhi. Numerous articles and reports from and about the South Asia region have been published in newspapers and magazines. In 2005 his book "Right to Information: An Appropriate Tool Against Corruption" was published (Mosaic Books, New Delhi). He designed and edited the present dossier for the federal headquarters.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Abdul Kalam is considered the "father" of the Indian missile program. He is considered ambitious and disciplined, and his hats are taken off his achievements as an engineer and scientist. But even as president, he gained nationwide sympathy, because in his public appearances he demonstrates great closeness to the people, is jovial and sociable.

The picture went around the world. Together with the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Abdul Kalam waved triumphantly into the cameras of the international press in May 1998: India had just detonated five atomic explosives deep under the Rajasthani desert. And the little man was instrumental in developing the delivery systems for these weapons. The fact that Vajpayee and his Hindu nationalist Indian People's Party (Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP) put him in the running as a presidential candidate four years later was less a matter of gratitude than of political calculation.

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born in October 1931 in Rameswaram in southern India - now the state of Tamil Nadu. He comes from a humble background and is the youngest of several siblings to Muslim parents. His father, it is said, rented boats to fishermen and, as a ferryman, took Hindu pilgrims to the famous Ramanathaswamy Temple.

Kalam was the first member of his family to attend university. After his training as an aerospace engineer on Madras Institute of Technology (1954-57) he initially applied unsuccessfully to the Indian Air Force. Via the Research and Development Organization of the Ministry of Defense DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization) Kalam came to the Indian space agency ISRO in 1963 (Indian Space Research Organization), where he worked on various projects for almost 20 years - including building the SLV-3 rocket, which carried the first Indian satellite into space in 1980.

In 1982 Kalam became director of the DRDO and was entrusted with the management of the missile program. Five major projects were initiated in the following years, the results of which became synonymous with a new Indian self-confidence. Nag (Cobra), Prithvi (Sky), Akash (Earth), Trishul (Trident) and Agni (Fire) are called Kalam's rocket children, which are supposed to frighten Pakistan especially. With the medium- and long-range missiles of the Agni type - they can be equipped with nuclear warheads, among other things - the People's Republic of China could also be targeted.

Compromise candidate from government and opposition

A year and a half after the nuclear tests, Prime Minister Vajpayee made the "father" of the Indian missile program the government's top science adviser. After a few months, however, Kalam resigned in order to devote himself fully to training young students - with the stated goal of paving the way for around 100,000 Indians into research by 2020. It shouldn't be long, however, before he stepped onto the political stage again.

In June 2002 the ruling BJP proposed the bachelors for the office of president. Although Kalam was considered Vajpayee's preferred candidate, the main concern of the Hindu nationalists was to prevent a second term for Kocheril Raman Narayanan (1921-2005) - as suggested by almost the entire opposition. One reason for this was that the to the group of Dalits (Untouchable, oppressed) Narayanan, who belonged to the BJP, had repeatedly demonstrated the limits of their actions and, in some cases, publicly expressed harsh criticism, despite the possibilities restricted by the constitution. Above all, the radical forces surrounding the BJP hoped to be able to manipulate a politically independent head of state in their favor and to have an easier time with him in controversies.

Kalam was the compromise candidate that the government and opposition finally agreed on. On July 18, 2002, he was elected 11th President of India by an overwhelming majority. Only the left-wing parties voted against him and for their candidate Lakshmi Sehgal. Born in 1914, the doctor made a name for herself as a colonel in the Rani Jhansi Women's Regiment in the Indian National Army of Subash Chandra Bose. She was also first minister in Bose's government in exile. Kalam dissolved the "impeccable" K.R. Narayanan took office on July 25th.

He is a 200 percent Indian, say his followers, who adore him above all for his almost limitless patriotism. And Kalam lived up to its reputation by immediately demanding more self-confidence for his country, which should no longer see itself as a developing country in view of the rapid growth rates. Above all, he expected more respect for India's independence from the "weapons of peace", as he called the Indian atomic bombs.

Opponents, however, brand the "rocket man" (missile man) as a representative of a "petty militaristic nationalism". In addition, Kalam had an "all too simple, untrained and sometimes unforgivably naive understanding of political issues," said the publicist Praful Bidwai after the candidacy became known.

Vision for India's future

In the meantime, the critics have largely fallen silent. One reason for this is that Kalam by no means became a marinonette of the rulers - neither the BJP nor the Congress Party, which surprisingly swept the Hindu nationalists out of responsibility in the general election in spring 2004. Another reason is the sympathy that the president receives from across the country. He is considered ambitious and disciplined. We take our hat off to his achievements as an engineer and scientist - he has received a total of 30 honorary doctorates. And he should be just as familiar with the holy scriptures of Hinduism as he is with the Koran. He loves poetry, writes poetry and makes music. You can look up to Kalam. At the same time, he demonstrates great closeness to the people in his public appearances, is jovial and sociable.

He is particularly fond of children and young people. He regularly invites students to his palace. There is a section dedicated to children on the official website. The music broadcaster MTV even nominated him for the "Youth Icon 2006" award. The fact that a cricketer won the race didn't detract from Kalam's popularity.

The younger generation admires Kalam's broad vision for the Indian Union of over a billion people. Trust in one's own abilities, self-respect and the goal of comprehensive scientific-technological, economic and social development are among his basic assumptions, in addition to an optimistic worldview, which the experts under his leadership in several volumes under the title "India 2020: Vision for the Millennium" (India 2020: Vision for the Millenium) worked out. One of the goals is to turn the country into a superpower of knowledge in less than two decades and to lead it into the group of G8 states as a political and economic heavyweight. Should the president's vision actually come true, Kalam could again wave triumphantly into the cameras of the world press. However, he did not leave his compatriots much time to implement it.