Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Former President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was born on 15th October 1931. He is known as the ‘Missile Man of India'. The country is paying rich tributes to Kalam on his 91st birth anniversary today.

Kalam’s Odisha Connection

Kalam had spent considerable time in Bhadrak and Balasore districts of Odisha as part of his efforts to launch missiles for the protection of the country.

The Wheeler Island, located approximately 10 km off the Odisha coast, is one of the country’s most advanced missile testing ranges. As a tribute to the Missile Man, Odisha government had renamed the island in Bhadrak district after the former President on September 4, 2015. 

It was during the tenure of then chief minister Biju Patnaik that Wheeler Island was given away to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Kalam’s request for missile testing in 1993. 

The missiles which were launched from the Wheeler Island include Akash, Agni, Astra, BrahMos, Nirbhay, Prahaar, Prithvi, Shaurya and Advanced Air Defence, and Prithvi Air Defence. Kalam had also worked at the DRDO unit in Balasore for long as a missile scientist.

Protection of Olive Ridley turtles

Kalam had helped Odisha immensely in an eco-conservation mission that was crucial to the survival of endangered Olive Ridley turtles. This was much before he adorned the highest office in the country.

As the chief of DRDO when his attention was drawn to the fact that the Olive Ridley turtles, which have their largest rookery in the world on the Gahrimatha beach in Odisha’s Kendrapara district, were being distracted by the bright lights on the Wheeler island missile testing facility nearby, Dr Kalam ensured that these lights were masked during the nesting season of the ecosensitive marine creatures.