By Ramesh Babu
Kochi: For eight days, Kannan Gopinathan worked at relief camps in flood-ravaged Kerala. On the ninth day, the district collector of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, a federally ruled territory in western India, was recognized and he quietly left, as discreetly as he had arrived and helped.
He spent two days carrying large packages on his head while offloading relief material from trucks in the port city of Kochi.
Gopinathan, a 2012 batch of the Indian Administrative Service officer had arrived in Kerala on August 26 as the state battled devastation from deadly floods. He was on an official visit to hand over a check for 10 million rupees from Dadra and Nagar Haveli for the Kerala chief minister’s relief fund.
Once that engagement was over, the 32-year-old official took a bus from the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram. Not to his home town Puthupally, but to one of Kerala’s worst-affected areas, Chengannur. He went from camp to camp helping distressed people forced to abandon their homes and seek shelter.
He is still reluctant to talk about his flood relief work. “I didn’t do anything great. I was just a visitor. You have to talk to officers who live in the midst of the affected since the flood hit the state. They are real heroes,” Gopinathan said, describing as “embarrassing” the moment when he was recognized and people clamored to click selfies with him.
He was spotted while volunteering at a relief camp at the Kerala Books and Publications Society office, by a senior currently posted in Kerala.
“Some officials even said they were sorry if anything they had said had hurt me. I thought if I remain there it will be a big disservice and left the place immediately,” Gopinathan said, adding he was overwhelmed by the presence of volunteers from many parts of the country, including the north-east.
He was also reluctant to talk to this reporter, saying, “I don’t want it to be story. It is unfair if you glorify me. Real heroes are there on the ground. If we keep the spirit like this I am sure Kerala will overcome the tragedy soon.”
On his return to Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Gopinathan applied for leave but the administration marked the time he spent helping at the camps as an official tour.
The Kerala tragedy, which left more than 400 dead and 1.3 million homeless, saw several young officers like Gopinathan brave bad weather and the threat of epidemic to engage tirelessly in rescue and relief work.
Kerala’s food safety commissioner Rajamanikyam was seen carrying sacks of rice, Thrissur collector T V Anupama did rounds of camps with her young baby in her arms, and Thiruvananthapuram collector K Vasuki led a team of volunteers from the front.
Gopinathan had earlier come to limelight for his pro-people activities when he worked in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram. Hnahthial, a tiny village in Lunglei district of Mizoram received its first accessible ATM machine in 2011 because of Gopinathan’s proactive services.
He also launched a disaster management app for the people of Mizoram after an earthquake struck the northeastern Indian region.
The entire region sits on an area of high seismic activity. Moreover, perpetual rainfall accompanied by landslides and roadblocks are a common problem without any concrete solution. Hence managing a disaster had become a major part of work profile of any bureaucrat rendering his services there.
Gopinathan said the region that required special attention motivated him to develop a useful disaster management application in just a period of one month.
He did his schooling from Kottayam, Kerala and engineering from BIT Mesra, Ranchi in Electrical Engineering. He later joined Freescale Semiconductors (previously Motorola) at Noida in 2007.
Playing drums and djembe are his hobbies. He also loves football, cricket and badminton.
During his stay in Noida, he worked in an NGO called AID-Noida, teaching children from a slum community. He later quit the company in 2011 to appear for civil services.
(Source: The Hindustan Times and nelive.in)