(Above) Dr Kalam's Man Friday V. Ponraj at work. (Below) Dr Kalam celebrates his 79th birthday in the company of Ponraj (centre, Ash colour shirt) and his longest serving private secretary R.K. Prasad (extreme right) at the Government Guest House in Allapuzha in Kerala on October 15, 2010. Photo Courtesy: Billion Beats
By Anantha Krishnan M.
Express News Service
Bangalore: His is a story that has envied many in the last 10 years. Hailing from Thonugal village in Kariapatti thaluk of Virdhunagar district in Tamil Nadu, Ponraj, a retired policeman’s son, has stunned everyone with his meteoric rise. This 46-year-old Computer Science post-graduate from Bharathidasan University in Trichy, is today one of the vital member of former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s inspiration team. Hence, “I know Ponraj,” has become one famous line you get to hear from all those who have interacted with Kalam. Be it politicians, scientists, technocrats, tech gurus and academicians! It’s not surprising that he is back in the news again with the Koodankulam nuclear plant issue, with his 10-point formulae giving possible solutions.
So what makes Ponraj special? What did Kalam see in him? Technically, he is as Scientist-G, with Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the makers of India’s Light Combat Aircraft Tejas. “He was sent on a deputation to Rashtrapathi Bahvan in 2002 when Dr Kalam became the President. We have now posted him to our Delhi office and extending his services to Kalam,” ADA sources tell Express. At Raisina Hills, Ponraj was made Director, Technology Interface to the President, and then on he has never looked back.
Ponraj captured Dr Kalam’s heart when the former visited ADA in early 2000. “He was a Network Services specialist and Dr Kalam wanted someone to put together his thoughts. Their wavelength matched and the rest is history,” sources said. Ponraj was first tasked with creating a website (abdulkalam.com) for Kalam. His tech-savvy touch and speed floored Kalam the website became a hit within no time.
This Correspondent met Ponraj in June 2002, while he was about to board a bus to Chennai from Bangalore, soon after Kalam’s name was finalized for the presidentship. “He wanted to update the website following the recent developments. I am going there to assist him answer the flood of mail. He is particular about answering queries from youngsters,” was Ponraj’s response.
Today he travels with Dr Kalam to all major programmes and propagates his Mission 2020. Interestingly, soon after the Jayalalitha came to power in TN this year, Ponraj was given the task to inspire the MLAs on various aspects of good governance for two days. His power-point presentation to Jaya’s team is said to have been a smashing hit.
While Ponraj’s is a story of spotlights, then R.K. Prasad’s, private secretary to Dr Kalam, is just the opposite. Prasad, the longest serving aide of Dr Kalam, is probably an unsung hero in the Missile Man’s Mission Possible team!
(Copyright@The New Indian Express)
Lots of care in drafting 10-point formula: Speaking to The New Indian Express in Bangalore, V. Ponraj said that he took extreme care in drafting the 10-point formula considering the sensitivities involved with the Koodankulam issue. “I have visited many nuclear plants along with Dr Kalam and it gave rare insights for me while making the report. In the last three months, ever since I was given the task to script the report by Dr Kalam, I have been interacting with a numbers of nuclear scientists and experts. We have gone into lots of details and analyzed the issue threadbare,” Ponraj said.
Dr Kalam’s team also interacted with various members of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) before finalizing the report. “In addition, we have also taken suggestions from the people and activists,” Ponraj said told Express, soon after landing at the Bangalore airport along with Dr Kalam. The team was heading to Chitradurga for an event organized by the Indian Institute of Science.
(Copyright@The New Indian Express)