Kannan Gopinathan: Unraveling Reality – Aspiration to Resignation

( written by Kaushik J, Project Executive, Development office, IIMB)

The evening of Sept 6th was something different, I was curious to hear straight from the horse’s mouth – Mr. Kannan Gopinathan, about his recent resignation. The current political scenario in our country is a potboiler with contrasting views and Mr. Gopianthan was right at the centre of this conundrum.

The Centre for Public Policy at IIM Bangalore hosted a talk by Kannan Gopinathan, ex-IAS, on September 6th, Friday.

Mr. Gopinathan began by recounting his days before becoming IAS officer. As an Electrical engineer he worked for Motorola in Noida. During this time, he volunteered to teach in the nearby slums. It is here that he found motivation to serve the public. As days passed by, the question of how best to serve and impact the lives of people lingered – the answer, as backed by his wife, was to become a civil servant. Strengthened by motivation he succeeded in becoming an IAS officer in 2012. His first posting was in Delhi and subsequently was posted at Aizawl, Mizoram. Here, in a financially modest district, his low-cost innovative ways of solving problems garnered much respect and support from the public. He was appointed District Collector (DC) at an early stage in his career. One such proud innovation – he collected waste mobiles from across metro cities and employed them for logging attendance of Asha workers (health and family planning govt personnel) visiting a household. By means of a miss call, each family would confirm whether they were visited by such personnel. Continuing, his passion for impacting lives, he also helped establish 30 badminton training centres in Mizoram in partnership with Pullela Gopichand academy.

The change in narrative began when Mr. Gopinathan was posted to Dadar and Nager Haveli. Here the story contrasted with that of Mizoram. The Union territory was the cash cow of industrial western India having a turnover of about 1 lakh crores per annum. On taking charge, he was showered with responsibilities and many titles – from the DC to head of many corporations. But having all these roles and not having the space of mind to work is what affected him the most. He expressed displeasure having to work in such a place – stating the fact that people of such a cash rich district were more malnourished than those of Jharkhand. He sensed there were discrepancies in governing. It was very surprising to him as well. The various events that followed, such as the removal of about 500 home guards in a single day was something unfathomable to him. The pressure of having to find a way to realise the political will suffocated him. He no longer loved his job. He felt being reduced to a mere machine that performed as instructed. This certainly contrasted with his aspiration of serving people as an IAS officer.

As we listened, he resentfully declared why he had chosen to resign, and such reasons were at the forefront. Yet, with much strength in his voice, he cited the Hong Kong protests and stressed on the importance of freedom of expression and decent. He said in a country like ours, whose foundations were formed based on freedom of expression and speech, it is very disheartening to see the current occurrences. During his 75-minute talk, he gave many insights and examples that highlighted the same. On a concluding note, to me the one take away would certainly be – The importance of the space for decent and freedom of expression in a democracy.

I resonate with his concluding statement as he quoted Confucius – Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you.

Read more: https://www.iimb.ac.in/every-democracy-respect-nurture-space