Former President A P J Abdul Kalam, the 'missile man' who became popular as 'People's President' died today after he suffered a massive cardiac arrest and collapsed during a lecture at the IIM here this evening.
Kalam, who would have turned 84 in October, was confirmed dead more than two hours after he was wheeled into the ICU of Bethany hospital in a critical condition following the collapse at around 6.30 PM.
Arriving at the Indian Institute of Management around 5.40 PM, he took rest for sometime and started the lecture on 'Livable Planet' at 6.35 pm. He collapsed five minutes later, according to Director, IIM-Shillong, Prof De. Kalam last tweeted "Going to Shillong to take course on livable planet at IIM."
He was admitted to the Bethany hospital at 7 PM, a km away from the institute. De said the hospital authority told him that Kalam died due to cardiac arrest.
The body was taken to the Military Hospital and will be kept there for the night. It will be taken by an Air Force helicopter to Guwahati at 5.30 AM tomorrow and from there to Delhi by a special aircraft.
Considered the most popular President, Kalam became the 11th head of the state and occupied the post between 2002 and 2007 but lack of consensus denied a second term in office for a man who came from outside the rough and tumble of politics.
Meghalaya Governor V Shanmughanathan, who rushed to the hospital on hearing the news of his admission, said Kalam died at 7.45 pm. Despite medical team best efforts, he could not be revived.
Chief Secretary P B O Warjiri told reporters outside the hospital that he had spoken to Union Home Secretary L C Goyal asking for necessary arrangements to be made for carrying Kalam's body from Guwahati to Delhi tomorrow morning.
"The former President has been admitted to Bethany hospital in a critical condition," M Kharkrang, SP Khasi Hills said earlier.
Doctors from the army hospital and North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) rushed to Bethany hospital but their efforts proved to be of no avail.
A seven-day national mourning will be declared by the Centre, Union Home Secretary L C Goyal said. Both the Houses of Parliament are likely to make obituary references and adjourn as a mark of respect to his memory.
Leaders cutting across the political spectrum tonight paid glowing tributes to former President A P J Abdul Kalam with President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi describing him as a "people's President" and an "inspirational leader" who dedicated his entire life to the nation.
As the news of Kalam broke, condolences and tributes poured in from all corners of the country, reflecting the huge popularity he enjoyed both in and out of the highest office of the country that earned him the sobriquet of the "people's President."
Mukherjee, in a condolence message, said that "in Kalam's passing away, we have lost a great son of India who dedicated his entire life for the welfare of the motherland and its people.
"Dr Kalam was a people's President during his lifetime and will remain so even after his death," he said.
He said Kalam will be remembered for his passion for science and innovations and his contributions as an eminent scientist, administrator, educationist and writer.
His achievements as leader of India's defence research vastly enhanced the safety and security of of the nation, Mukherjee said.
Modi said that in Kalam's death he has lost a "marg darshak" who was a source of inspiration for the entire country, particularly for the youth.
Recalling Kalam's immense contribution in the field of science and technology, particularly space science, Modi said "India mourns the loss of a great scientist, a wonderful President & above all an inspiring individual."
"In my perosnal life, he was a fine and senior guide (margdarshak). I got an opprtunity to work very closely to him. In my personal life, I have lost a best guide. The country has lost a son who worked to make country a strong nation. He gave his every moment to make India's youth strong and self-reliant," he said.
Describing Kalam as "one of the greatest scientific minds, a scholar statesman and a true patriot who inspired millions of young and old alike by his works and deeds, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said his "contribution to our polity will remain unparalleled."
"Kalam inspired millions in the country and abroad and he even breathed his last while infusing a new zeal to young Indians in the course of his last address to IIM students. Indian National Congress stands with the entire nation in condoling Dr Kalam's death," Gandhi said.
Expressing grief at Kalam's death, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi termed him as "a man of many parts-he won over the hearts and minds of a nation with his warmth and wisdom."
Noted NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul described Kalam as an "inspiring figure" and a "great humanitarian".
Expressing his condolences, Lord Paul, Chairman of Caparo Group, the UK-based diversified conglomerate, also described Kalam as a "great President" and a hugely popular leader.