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NL Interview: Kannan Gopinathan on the Kafkaesque nature of bureaucracy, and the need to question those in power

‘A right of the government to take a decision coexists with a right of the people to react to that decision.’

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Over the last few months, activist Kannan Gopinathan has symbolised the risk of having a dissenting conscience in times of political and societal uncertainty. An engineer by training, he resigned from his post as an IAS officer after the abrogation of Article 370, only to have a chargesheet filed against him by his superiors.

Gopinathan sits down with Mehraj D Lone to talk about his journey from working on freescale semiconductors to being a bureaucrat posted in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. He outlines his hopes for bureaucratic reforms, decentralisation of power, dissenting against the CAA, and freedom of expression.

Disappointed with the bureaucratic apparatus, which he describes as a “sub-system within a larger political system”, Gopinathan talks about the utility of dissent in maintaining a healthy democracy, and why it’s more important than ever to question those in power. As he points out, “A right of the government to take a decision coexists with a right of the people to react to that decision.”

Moving beyond a supply-driven bureaucracy, Gopinathan advocates for a demand-based democracy that transcends ideology and produces sustainable solutions to long-standing societal issues. When asked about the Kafkaesque nature of bureaucracy, he tells the story of a young man whose efforts to procure an Aadhaar card made Gopinathan question the very ideals his profession stood to symbolise: accountability and efficiency.

Speaking about echo-chambers and “WhatsApp university”, Gopinathan argues that there is a complete communication breakdown which hides differing opinions from view and makes finding a common ground increasingly difficult.

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