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Cover Story

Shooting the messenger

The resignation of Kannan Gopinathan hasn’t gone down well with the establishment and it’s out to discredit him by trying to paint him as an inefficient and undisciplined officer. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

On August 21, Collector of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Kannan Gopinathan, a 2012-batch AGMUT cadre officer, resigned from his post and quit the civil services. Usually, resignations of junior civil servants don’t attract much attention. In the past too, junior officers have quit without much ado. But in Gopinathan’s case, his resignation created quite a flutter in the bureaucracy and the media and even seemed to have caught the government on the wrong foot. This was so because Gopinathan resigned in protest against the blanket communication blockade that was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of the Article 370 and 35A that granted special status to the state. (See main story for Gopinathan’s statement that he issued after resigning from service).

Later, two more IAS officers resigned. Sasikantha Senthil, DC Dakshina Kannada, quit the services because he felt the basic structure of India’s democracy is being systematically destroyed, while Kashish Mittal, belonging to the AGMUT cadre, posted at the NITI Aayog, resigned after being transferred to Arunachal Pradesh.

Predictably, a government that doesn’t brook any dissent or criticism meekly, tried to discredit Gopinathan by leaking a memo that was issued to him in July. The two-page memo dated July 8, signed by Rakesh Kumar Singh, Under Secretary to the Government of India, accuses Gopinathan of “various acts of omission and commission” and “indulging in act of insubordination, adoption of dilatory tactics and dereliction of duty, etc.” The memo became viral on social media and an obliging media selectively amplified it—and is still doing it—without publishing Gopinathan’s response.

The charges in the memo include “delay of nine months was observed on part of Sh. Kannan Gopinathan in submitting a file to amend the policy regarding discontinuation of issue of Permanent Residence Certificate”, delay in getting underground electrical cabling done and shifting of electricity poles, bypassing established reporting channel to the Administrator, failure to submit report about the relief work that Gopinathan did in Kerala in personal capacity following the massive floods of 2018 and failure to provide nominations in time for Prime Minister’s Award for “innovations in public administration.” He was asked to show cause why no action should be taken against him.

A government that doesn’t brook any dissent or criticism meekly, tried to discredit Gopinathan by leaking a memo that was issued to him in July… The memo became viral on social media and an obliging media selectively amplified it—and is still doing it—without publishing Gopinathan’s response

GOPINATHAN submitted an eight-page response on July 31, clinically demolishing the charges. “At the outset, I would like to respectfully but outrightly refute the charges made therein of insubordination, dereliction of duty, dilatory tactics, etc. It is submitted that I have been performing my duties diligently and to the best of my abilities. That I have been honest and committed to my duties is borne by the fact that Hon’ble Administrator gave 9.95 out of 10 on 24 Dec 2018 for my APAR of 2017-2018,” he wrote.

In his response he gave a detailed breakup of his performance for various other charges he held apart from being the collector of the Union Territory.

In his defence, Gopinathan gives a detail breakdown of his performance and targets achieved as Secretary-cum-Labour Commissioner, Chairman, Building & Other Construction Welfare Board and Secretary & Director, Social Welfare, Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

Coming to the specific charges of delay of nine months regarding the discontinuation of Permanent Residence Certificates, Gopinathan wrote: “It is submitted that there never has been a written direction to put up the file within a specific time-line and all communications with respect to the said file were verbal.” Elaborating further, he mentioned, “I was reminded by Advisor to the Administrator regarding the file in the third week of March, 2019. On this occasion and on a later occasion when Hon’ble Administrator directly reminded me of the file, I had humbly submitted that since reduction of years required for permanent residence-ship is a policy decision, as the model code of conduct is in force, it might be appropriate to put up the file only after the elections are over. Later, as per direction, the file was put up on 17.5.2019, Hon’ble Administrator gave approval on 23.5.2019 & notification to the effect was made on 31.05.2019 immediately after the elections were over (sic).”

Responding to the charge of bypassing established channels of communication with the UT Administrator, Gopinathan first gives a comprehensive list of precedence from 2014 to 2017 where the Managing Director DNH Power Distribution Company Limited directly to the Administrator for approval for appointment of various directors. “Keeping in view the above past precedents, the proposal for appointment of Directors at three instances (i.e. on dated 26/06/2018, 16/07/2018 and 15/10/2018), all for Government officers as ex-officio directors of the board, were put up from the Managing Director for the approval of the Hon’ble Chairman & Administrator in line with the requirement of Article of Association of the Corporation..”

AS for the charge of failure to submit the flood relief work in Kerala, Gopinathan points out that he went there in personal capacity on earned leave. “However, upon my return, during the meeting with Hon’ble Administrator, it was discussed that adopting a village at this stage might neither be desirable nor feasible for the UT and accordingly that the report need not be submitted. In fact, in this particular instance, I had gone beyond the call of my normal duty and tried to do my best for the relief and rehabilitation work as an officer and as a conscientious citizen of the country.,” he wrote.

On the final charge mentioned in the memo that he failed to submit nominations for Prime Minister’s Award for innovation in public administration, Gopinanthan points that the charge is incorrect. “It is humbly submitted that it is incorrect to state that I had failed to comply with the said directions. In fact, 5 applications under various categories were made for the said award. Out of which in two categories, PMAY (Urban) and PMAY (Rural), the district was shortlisted for Stage II presentation in Delhi.” He further states, “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we did not win the award. However, the fact that the administration and my superiors felt that the undersigned and the team deserved and hence should apply for the Prime Minister’s Award for excellence in Public Administration is a matter of great pride and satisfaction for me.”

From Gopinathan’s response it is clear that the powers that be are out to discredit him and paint him as an inefficient officer who was facing heat from the government and wanted to deflect by resigning from the service, with a pliant media playing the role of willing drumbeaters.

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