Wheeler Islands: Kalam's association remembered

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Wheeler Islands: Kalam's association remembered

Wednesday, 29 July 2015 | PNS | KENDRAPADA

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in his book “Ignited minds: unleashing the power within India” has written about his association with Odisha and the DRDO in the Wheeler Island. His demise was condoled at the DRDO establishment, which he had set up.

“We opened a geographical map of India. There were five tiny dots at a distance of 70 to 80 km from Interim Test Range (ITR). These are the Wheeler Islands. We could not go to the Rajasthan deserts for obvious reasons. The Andaman and Nicobar islands are far away. At 2.00 a.m. we decided that Wheeler Islands were the right choice for the missile impact test,” writes Kalam in the book.

later, he with the help of his two colleagues started a search for the suitable islands with the help of a helicopter. The two colleagues Saraswat and Salwan drove to a place at Dhamara. And from Dhamara, they hired a boat for the day for Rs 250 and reached at the islands and spent night there. Kalam in his book has also written about their experience in spending a night at the Wheeler Island.

The next day, Kalam and his two colleagues began their survey of islands. To their surprise, they saw on the eastern side of one island, a Bangladesh flag was flying atop a tree with huts nearby. The island was probably frequented by fishermen from the neighbouring country. His friends quickly removed the flag. later the district authorities, including Forest and Environment officers, visited the island. Kalam got the Defence Minister’s clearance to acquire the island. later, the formalities were completed with the Odisha Government.

He also wrote a detailed letter to the then Chief Minister of Odisha Biju Patnaik, explaining why they needed the islands. They had also done preparatory work before meeting Patnaik. There were typical questions about fishing activity in the vicinity, disturbance to turtles’ migration and breeding, and above all the cost of the islands. later, within ten days they got an appointment from Chief Minister Biju Patnaik. Biju agreed to hand over all the four islands to the DRDO, pleased over the way he was convinced about the use of the islands.

Kalam visited DRDO test range in July 2006 to boost the morale of the scientists and researchers  and see the sophisticated long-range ballistic missile ,Agni III , developed by the DRDO personnels .

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