New Delhi: Man of integrity, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam not only insulated his family from trappings of power but never used his personal capacity as the President of India for the personal benefit or any kind of undue favour to his kins.
For Kalam, known for the high integrity he displayed during his tenure as president, upholding high standards in public life was as important as familial bonds. So much so that he paid from his personal account the entire expenses that incurred while his family traveled from hometown to New Delhi and stayed at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
"The first time our family visited Delhi was when 'thatha' (grandfather) was sworn in as President. Around 50 members were part of the entourage. The entire travel expense was borne by him in a personal capacity," Kalam's grandnephew K Ajmal told TOI.
Ajmal recalled in 2005, 52 members of the family went on a sightseeing tour of New Delhi, perhaps the only occasion when they enjoyed Rashtrapati Bhavan's hospitality.
"We set out in two buses to Madurai from Rameswaram. From Madurai, we took the Nizamuddin Express. On reaching, we were taken in two buses to Rashtrapati Bhavan and my grandfather was there to receive us," said Ajmal.
"Each family was provided with a room and for all 10 days, programmes were charted out. On almost all days, we used to have food with the President," said Ajmal.
"Several varieties of food were served to us and it was a great family get-together," he said.
But, this is not the end of the story. Kalam's Secretary P. Madhavan Nair said the entire expenses during the stay of Kalam's family at Rashtrapati Bhavan were accounted with minute details, and after the family left, Kalam made the payment of Rs. 3,52,000/- from his personal account.
Likewise in 2002, Kalam directed his staff to distribute the entire amount used for organising Ramadan Iftaar program at Rashtrapati to poor and needy.
"He said the poor and needy deserve more the Rs.2.5 lakh Rashtrapti Bhavan expends on Ramadan Iftaar", Nair said.
He said Kalam also added Rs.1 lakh from his personal account with the Rs.2.5 lakh Rashtrapati Bhavan money and directed the staff to distribute to the poor and needy.
Nair also said Kalam during his tenure as President, went on 175 tours. Of them, only 07 were foreign tours. Rest all were in the country.
"Except for Lakshdeep, Kalam visited every state of the country", he said.