Among the many heartening stories coming from flood-ravaged Kerala, is the story of Kannan Gopinathan, IAS, who like many other Keralites living outside the state, came back to his home state to lend his hand in the rescue and relief operations. However, it was only when Ernakulam Collector Y Safirulla visited the KDPS press collection centre in Ernakulam that he recognised Kannan and told others at the centre that the ''young man" who had been toiling with them was, in fact, a Collector.
Since the day he landed in Kerala, Kannan, the District Collector of the Union Territory Dadra and Nagar Haveli, got involved in the post-floods relief work. Till the day he returned to Dadra and Nagar Haveli, he was busy loading and unloading materials at relief camps, collecting materials and travelling to the most remote places devastated by the floods.
“The most haunting feeling was that I was not there when my state was suffering. I just wanted to come. I told this to my superior officer who also took a very positive stand. When I applied for leave, he said that since it was for a particular mission, it could be considered as the duty, not as leave,” Kannan tells TNM.
Kannan travelled to Kerala on August 26 on an official visit from the union territory to hand over a cheque of Rs 1 crore under the MPLAD to the Kerala Chief Minister’s relief fund. With an overwhelming support of the authorities and local people there, he also managed to send ten trucks of materials to Kerala. When he reached Kerala, he decided to stay back and help out.
“It was true that I viewed the situation from an administrator’s point of view as well; how a disaster, which has not happened before in our lives, was being handled. But that came secondary, the priority was to reach out to the people who lost everything,” he says.
He couldn’t explain what moved him the most – every sight of the flood-hit regions and the situation at the relief camps affected him.
“As you know, there are people who don’t even have a brick left in place of their homes. Where will they go and how much time it will take them to begin all again…,” the 32-year-old officer says.
Kannan was equally moved by the work done by volunteers across the country.
“I had been to Chengannur, Kozhencherry, Aranmula, Idukki, north Paravur and in most of these places I saw volunteers who came from Ladakh, Meerut, Rajasthan and all, who were all doing an incredible job. They had all come voluntarily in teams of five and ten. From Ladakh, there were doctors from the group Doctors Without Borders. I worked as an interpreter for them as well,” Kannan shares.
Hailing from Kottayam district, Kannan is a 2012 batch IAS officer. He earlier used to work for Motorola as an electrical engineer before turning to civil services. Volunteering was something he had been doing since then with a group of his friends, which eventually led him to civil service.
“Women of Kudumbashree mission even elderly one was seen at the camps sorting out and supplying materials for the people, there were so many, who have done without intending for a reward. It is not like we watch it from a faraway place, the ground reality, the sights we have seen, the people we met… all could be possible only we reach out to those who needed a helping hand,” Kannan says.
Even now, though he is back in Dadra, he is working for Kerala. On Wednesday, Kannan sent two trucks with medicines to the flood-hit state. “We are planning to send even more, but it is not the time to the divulge all that,” he adds.
Read a Twitter thread by Jikku Jacob Verghese who wrote the story for Manorama.
#Thread Here's an incredible story about a young man who was busy with loading and unloading in #KeralaFloods relief centres. Only days later people came to know that he was none other than, Kannan Gopinathan, the Collector of Dadra & Nagar Haveli! (1/n) pic.twitter.com/PICbgoHn70— Jikku Varghese Jacob (@Jikkuvarghese) September 5, 2018