HYDERABAD: It was in 1970s the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) acquired nearly 2,100-acre barren, dry land filled with boulders in Pahadishareef on the city outskirts for Anti-Tank Missile Testing. For 25 years, the barren land remained as it is with tankers rolling on it. It was in 1985 that the landscape of the place started to change with the arrival of the great visionary Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.
In August 1985, under the leadership of Kalam, the foundation stone was laid by the then Prime Minister Late Rajiv Gandhi and on August 27, 1988, a premier R&D institution, now known as Research Centre Imarat (RCI) was established.
“I call RCI Kalam’s illegitimate child. It was not a sanctioned project but became nucleus of all five projects (Nag, Akash, Prithvi, Agni and Trishul),” chuckled Dr RN Agarwal (72), who worked closely with Kalam as the then project director of Agni ballistic missile.
Years later, 26 years to be precise, in the same month of August, on Monday, a bronze statue of the former President of India and the founder director of RCI APJ Abdul Kalam was unveiled. A stone’s throw from the statue is the duplex where he stayed between 1988 and 1992. A simple house which had the ground floor meant for meetings, and two rooms on the first floor, both filled with books, was also the place where Kalam would play ‘veena’, recalls one of his former associates.
On Monday, when former scientists associated with Kalam gathered at the RCI to pay tributes to their dearest chief, one thing they all shared in common was how Kalam bailed them out each time something misfired.
“In 1989, when Agni missile was successfully fired, Kalam projected me in front of all whereas till then he was the one taking in all the pressures,” Agarwal recalled.
Recalling the leadership of Kalam, Rear Admiral SR Mohan, who was the project director of indigenous surface to air Trishul missile in 1982, recalled how the flight motor of the Trishul burst during a static firing planned in front of the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. “Naturally we felt let down. Kalam said, hey Buddy, nothing much has happened. You are in the field of rocketry. Such things are bound to happen. During SLV3, my actual flight motor went into the sea,” he recollected.
G Satheesh Reddy, director of RCI, had also started his career at RCI, under Kalam. “He asked me to specialise in navigation. He interacted with me during Agni and Prithvi though I was a junior scientist,” he recalled.