Commemorating the first death anniversary of former president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, his life-size statue was unveiled here today, while the Centre also announced inclusion of his hometown Rameswaram under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation as a tribute to the ‘People’s President’.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Kalam had left an irreplaceable void, Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the Centre has decided to include Rameswaram in AMRUT by relaxing norms as a tribute to the former president.
Rich tributes were paid to Kalam at a huge function organised here by Defence Research and Development Organisation, with which he was associated for long, the Defence Ministry and Ministry of Urban Development.
Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar and MoS Road Transport and Highways Pon Radhakrishnan were among the dignitaries present when Naidu unveiled the statue at Peikarumbu in Rameswaram.
Modi on Twitter said, ‘Its been a year since our beloved Dr A P J Abdul Kalam left us & created a void that is irreplaceable (sic). My tributes to this great personality.’
Naidu said it’s difficult still to believe Dr Kalam had passed away.
“Dr Kalam will live forever in our minds and hearts. His thoughts continue to be with us all the time,” he said.
On the Centre’s decision to include the town under AMRUT by relaxing the norms of eligibility, he said while cities with a population of one lakh and above are included in the scheme, Prime Minister Modi included the town, with a population of 45,000, as a tribute to Dr Kalam.
Naidu said the Centre has approved projects worth Rs 48 crore for Rameswaram under AMRUT. Of this, Rs 45 crore would be used to improve sewerage networks and rest on developing parks and open spaces.
“This is a token of what the minimum we could do for the memory of Dr Kalam,” he said.
Naidu thanked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for allotting the land to construct the memorial in memory of the former President.
“When I met her last week, she assured me that whatever needs to be done for a befitting memorial would be done by the state government,” he said.
“The vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is federal cooperation where the Centre and states work in harmony. This memorial is an example of his vision. I thank the chief minister for her cooperation,” he said.
Tracing Kalam’s ascension to presidency, Naidu said as the then Bharatiya Janata Party chief he was associated with discussions when the National Democratic Alliance government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee considered the matter.
“Quite a few were not sure if a hard core scientist with no experience of public life or even public interaction could be the right choice, but...our decision in his favour, subsequently proved to be the best one. He emerged as the most loved president of our country,” he said.
On the memorial, he said it would be a grand monument to perpetuate the memory of Kalam ‘who lived not for himself but for all us and the country’ and a small tribute to him.
A sand sculpture of the former president, depicting only his face, was unveiled by one of Kalam’s family members.
Naidu urged all political parties to cooperate and work towards completion of the memorial as Dr Kalam ‘belonged to the nation and not any political party’.
Parrikar, who laid a wreath as a tribute to the former president, recalled Kalam’s visit to Goa when he was chief minister of the state.
“When I was chief minister of Goa, he visited. We had a very long discussion on his vision of India in 2020,” he said.
On the memorial being set up by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Parrikar said its design was in the final stage and the work was expected to commence in coming months.
“The design of the memorial is in the final stages and I expect the work to commence in full scale in the coming months. The memorial will be completed in record time,” he said.
“The concept of completing a project in time was the highest priority of Dr Kalam,” he said.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hailed Kalam as a true patriot, scientist and a statesman.
‘Bharat Ratna Dr Kalam was a true patriot, scientist & statesman. We remember this son of India & pay our tribute on his death anniversary,’ he wrote on Twitter.
BJP President Amit Shah said Kalam was the ‘epitome of simplicity, hard work and morality’.
“His teachings and vision will continue to inspire generations to come,” he said.
Kalam passed away on July 27 last year after suffering a massive cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture at Indian Institute of Management-Shillong in Meghalaya.
IMAGE: Union Minister for Urban Development M Venkaiah Naidu and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar after laying the foundation stone for Dr A P J Abdul Kalam National Memorial to mark his first death anniversary at Peikarumbu, Rameswaram on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI Photo