NEW DELHI: Parliament today hailed A P J Abdul Kalam as the "real gem" of India, saying the death of the former President has taken away its "true son" who became the driving force behind the country's space and missile programme.
"In Dr Kalam's death, the country has lost a sagacious statesman, a great scientist and a friend of the under- privileged and a fine human being," the Lok Sabha said in a glowing tribute to Kalam, who died in Shillong yesterday.
The Rajya Sabha said: "In the passing away of Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, the country has lost a true son of India and his contributions to the nation, in his capacity as a man of technology, a teacher and a leader will be deeply cherished by a grateful nation."
As a mark of respect to the departed leader, members in both Houses stood in silence for a brief while before the proceedings were adjourned for the day.
The Lower House was adjourned till July 30 to enable members to attend the late President's funeral ceremony tomorrow, while the Upper House would have its sitting tomorrow.
Paying rich tributes to Kalam, who served as President from 2002-2007, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said he was the "real gem of India". Till his last breath, he was doing what he loved best, interacting with young India, igniting their minds with scientific temperament and spirit of inquiry.
Noting that Kalam was a unique personality who embodied rare intellectual brilliance and an undying scientific zeal, Mahajan said he worked his way to become the driving force behind India's space and missile programmes and "came to be known as the 'Missile Man of India'".
He played a pivotal organisational and technical role in India's Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974, the Speaker said.
"Kalam was a noble man of 83 years, with energy and enthusiasm of 38 years and an innocent smile of an 8-year old," Mahajan said.
She said his passing away has indeed left a void but his life will ever remain an inspiration to all. "He has left an indelible imprint upon our national psyche."
In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari termed Kalam's death as "an irreparable loss to the country."
"He was a guide to India's space and missile programmes and his efforts saw India become a front-ranking power in these spheres ... His life will always remain a source of inspiration to all," he said.
Observing that Kalam's leadership style and vision were not just valued in India but abroad as well, Ansari said the former President "visualised a distinctive profile of India by the year 2020 which included responsive, transparent and corruption-free governance and where the nation is proud of its leadership."
He reposed great faith in the youth of the country and believed that through proper guidance, they will be able to transform India into a developed nation, which is one of his greatest dreams, Ansari said.
The Chairman said Kalam's research and educational leadership brought him great laurels and prestige, prompting the Government to initiate an advanced missile programme under his directorship.
He was the Chief Executive of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme and was instrumental in the development of the Agni and Prithvi Missles.
Kalam also played a pivotal role in India's Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998 and piloted India's civilian space programme, military missile development efforts and ballistic missle and launch vehicle technology to the heights which it has reached today.
"He endeared himself to his colleagues and all those who were associated with him and this quality earned him the title 'People's President," the Chairman said.
Active in the field of academics even after demitting office as President, Kalam in May 2012 launched a programme for the youth of India, with the central theme of defeating corruption called 'What Can I Give.'
The members stood in silence for some time, before the Chairman adjourned the House for the day.