Did Wheeler Island have a special place in Kalam’s mind?

Kalam lovingly called Wheeler Island as his “Theatre of Action”. There is a long story behind Wheeler Island and its connection with Kalam. “Ignited Minds: Unleashing the power within India” tells us what happened.

Kalam was the first director of the Integrated Test Range in 1982. He was successful with the demonstration of the Prithvi missile in 1993. DRDO needed a land range to conduct the final test to check out any possible errors. They ruled out its desert range in Rajasthan due to safety and political issues. They said ‘no’ to the Andaman and Nicobar

Islands as they were too far away from the mainland.

They wanted a quiet island off India’s east coast. It was Kalam who noticed the three small islands on the map which the Indian Navy gave to DRDO. These were near Dhamra in Odisha. The names on the map were interesting! Long Wheeler, Coconut Wheeler and Small Wheeler!

Kalam then sent scientists Dr V.K. Saraswat and Dr S.K. Salwan to locate the islands. But they could not find the islands and got lost. Luckily, they chanced on some fishing boats. The fishermen did not know of Wheeler Island but gave them directions to go to another island “Chandrachood.”

When the scientists reached there, they understood that “Chandrachood” was actually Small Wheeler Island. They found it suitable for missile testing and had to spend the night there. They had only bananas to eat.

Kalam got clearance from the then defence minister and Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to acquire the island. He wrote to the then Odisha chief minister Biju Patnaik for permission to use the islands. Patnaik agreed on the condition that Kalam should make a missile that would reach China! Kalam gave his word to the CM.

Thus the islands were leased for 99 years to DRDO by the Odisha government. It was here that Prithvi was first successfully tested on November 30, 1993.

After reading this, you will probably want to visit Wheeler Island, now renamed Abdul Kalam Island. Sorry, but only DRDO and Defence Ministry officials are permitted to go there!

Picture Credit : Google 

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