Book Review of

‘Turning Points: Journey Through Challenges’ by A P J Abdul Kalam

Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, Turning Points: Journey Through Challenges, Noida, Harper Collins Publishers India, 2012, 182 pp, Rs 199/-.

Dr A P J Abdul Kalam is former President of Indian Republic, during 2002-2007. He is a defense scientist by profession, and contributed immensely to the Indian missile technology and for other related defense activities. Though there are many scientists in India, his place is unique due to various reasons, especially the popularity which he is enjoying due to media projection and so-on.

Dr Kalam is not only author of books related to his academic profession, but also well-known – uniquely for his books related to inspiring the younger generation of the Indians. The earlier books, which aimed at inspiring Indian younger generation includes; Wings of Fire and Ignited Minds, etc. Mostly, they are presented from his personal encounters and his quest to see ‘developed India’, and the present book, ‘Turning Points’ also runs in the same way. But, the uniqueness of the present book lies at covering a substantial part of his Presidential tenure, which is a highly distinguished political position.

Dr Kalam immensely felt happy to occupy the position of the Indian Republic, as Nominal Head. But, though the post is a Nominal Head, he somehow expressed satisfaction that he got an opportunity to present his Vision, especially ‘vision of India 2020’. He enlisted the instances of his Presidential tenure, which gave him opportunities to present his version of Developed India 2020, and how he was successful, though as a nominal head. For this purpose he used some of the meetings of the Governors, etc.

The book also presents many interesting features of the Rastrapathi Nilayam, the official residence of the Indian President. But, same time the book failed entirely to present a comprehensive nature of his political decisions in various respects. Though some sections covered about his political decisions, they, in my view are not significant political aspects, like about thinking that Mrs Sonia Gandhi may seek his approval for occupying the position of the Prime Minister in 2004, Gujarat massacre incident of 2002, etc. The chapter on Gujarat had not much things to convey, especially about ethnic/religious intolerance in India. Though, he is a Muslim by birth, he failed to utter a single word about this massacre, which was committed by the Hindu fanatics.

His vision is to see India developed. But, again he failed to enlist what kind of practical problems are faced by the nation in the process of development. He highlighted only the smooth process of developmental activities. In my view, he should have said something about the problems faced due to the process of development, like poor citizens land acquisition/ improper displacement and failure in rehabilitation, etc. He also had no knowledge of social stratification of India, etc, basing on which developmental activities should be framed in a multi-cultural society like India!!! In other words, his concept of development is totally based on technology oriented, but failed to critically consider the disadvantaged sections like SC/ST/OBC/ and other marginalized sections. This indicates that he has no knowledge of proper understanding of Indian political process, based on various dimensions like identities movements, social movements, etc, and political ideologies like Left, Center, Right, etc.

The challenges faced by the Indian Parliamentary system, which he came to know across in his Presidential position, were presented separately at the end of the book as epilogue, again without synthesizing them in political analysis, which shows his political inability, though occupied the one of the highly distinguished political position!!!

On the whole, this book is basically suitable to idealistic persons like Dr Kalam, who don’t wish (or lack ability) to take into consideration various critical concepts and put forward political analysis!!!