New Delhi, Oct 23: The rumour mills are at it again. They seem to be hovering over India's Missile Man Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, spreading rumours on the octogenarian scientist's health.
However, his office has categorically clarified that the former President is hale and hearty. "He is absolutely fine. He is at work," a close aide told OneIndia on Thursday, Oct 23.
For the last one week, New Delhi is abuzz with news about Dr Kalam's ‘deteriorating health' and ‘admission to a hospital.' Interestingly, when the rumours reached a fever pitch, Dr Kalam was away in Dhakka, participating in the 110th founding anniversary celebration of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The former President's absence from his No 10, Rajaji Marg residence in New Delhi is said to have ‘helped the cause' of the mischief brigade this time.
Don't believe the rumours
Dr Kalam, who turned 83 on Oct 15, 2014, has been the target of ‘rumour missiles' for some time now. His office tells OneIndia that this time too, the rumours have been suspected to be triggered off from a SMS, which went viral on the Facebook.
Putting an end to all speculations, Dr Kalam had tweeted last night, which said, "Some messages are being circulated that I'm unwell and hospitalised. This is totally false. I have several commitments to attend to. Please pay no heed two such rumors."
He followed up the message with another tweet extending his festive greetings. "Wishing everyone a prosperous Deepawali... filled with the light of knowledge and wisdom," the tweet said.
Clarify on time: Media
According to Prasoon S Kandath, Delhi Bureau Chief of Malayalam daily ‘Kerala Kaumudi', the rumours have always put the media in a bit of bother.
"This has been happening too often now and it goes viral all over within a short time. He is a man with huge following and his office should put in a mechanism to counter all these rumours. Since, he is active on FB and twitter, the best way is to constantly update these accounts. Clarifying the facts on the time is the key," says Prasoon.
Too many incidents
In May this year too, Dr Kalam's office had to get on to a massive fire-fighting mode after a suspected SMS said to be originated from Mumbai did the rounds saying he was unwell.
Earlier in March 2011, Dr Kalam was ‘declared dead' by a section of media which got confused with the death of Hafiz Saleh Muhammad Alladin, a renowned astronomer.
He was also one time educational adviser to the former President. Those who mistook Hafiz for Dr Kalam were quick to even post their condolence messages on various social networking sites.
Matter referred to officials
Dr Kalam was admitted to the Army Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi last November, after he was hit by high fever and flu. He had to cancel all his engagements for weeks together and since then his office has been taking extreme care while charting the travel plans.
"We have taken up the matter with the officials again to stop all kinds of rumours often coming out on Dr Kalam's health. We have also written to the officials and hope the matter gets sorted out. Today evening, he has some appointments at home and everything is normal as usual," an aide said.
Just not done: Fans
For the hardcore followers of Dr Kalam, the frequent rumours on his health are a cause of huge worry.
"We follow him on FB and twitter. I have been capturing everything he has said in the many years. I also had an opportunity to meet him one to one in 2011. It's really disgusting to see that someone is playing the prank on his health. The IT brains at Centre should narrow down on the suspects and end this menace," says Arun Murthy, Managing Director of Dattatreya Enterprises. Echoing his views was Bhuvanesh Chandrashekar, a businessman.
"The rumours are definitely annoying. It's high time the government acted. Dr Kalam is India's jewel and we need to protect his image," he said.
(The writer is a senior aerospace and defence journalist anchoring in India. He is a Consulting Editor with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake)