Kerala govt to initiate 'high-level' talks with Centre over UAE's financial aid to state; MEA says relief, rehabilitation will be domestic effort

India on Wednesday made it clear that it will not accept any assistance from foreign governments for flood-ravaged Kerala in sync with an existing policy.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the government was committed to meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation in Kerala through domestic efforts.

A number of countries have announced assistance for flood relief operations in Kerala. While the United Arab Emirates has offered $100 million (around Rs 700 crore), Qatar has pledged around Rs 35 crore and Maldives has announced a donation of $50,000 (Rs 35 lakh).

File photo of MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. ANI

File photo of MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. ANI

Kumar, however, said contributions to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund and the Chief Minister's Relief Fund from NRIs (Non Resident Indians, PIOs (Persons of Indian Origin) and international entities such as foundations will be welcomed.

The Kerala government is keen to accept the donations from the UAE. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state government would approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clear hurdles, if any, in receiving the aid offered to the state by the United Arab Emirates.

In response to the Centre's reluctance to accept the financial aid, Vijayan said the state government will initiate high-level discussions with the central government to enable the transfer of funds from the UAE government in the wake of the floods in the state. "The National Disaster Management policy provides provisions to accept voluntary offers from foreign nations in the wake of calamities," the chief minister said.

Vijayan further said that people from various parts of the country and the state have come forward, irrespective of differences to help Kerala tide over the calamity. "So far, a total of Rs 318 crore has been collected for the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund. Of this, Rs 146 crore comes from various states, which contributed generously. This is apart from the contribution in the form of food grains from states like Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu," an official release read.

The statement came shortly after Kumar clarified the government's stance on acceptance of aid from the UAE.

"The Government of India deeply appreciates offers from several countries, including from foreign governments, to assist in relief and rehabilitation efforts after the tragic floods," Kumar said. "In line with the existing policy, the government is committed to meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts," he said, in response to a question on the issue.

Sources said funds coming from the UAE through foundations or international entities will be acceptable.

The UPA government, during the Uttarakhand floods in 2013, had decided not to accept assistance from foreign countries. Sources said India has already conveyed the decision of not accepting offer of assistance to Kerala by several countries.

In a tweet, Thailand's Ambassador to India Chutintorn Sam Gongsakdi said the Indian government has informed his country it will not accept overseas donations for relief operations in Kerala.

Official sources said New Delhi has conveyed to foreign governments that it was carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the damage caused by the floods in Kerala and is capable of meeting the requirements of the state on its own.

"Informally informed with regret that GOI is not accepting overseas donations for Kerala flood relief. Our hearts are with you the people of Bharat," the Thai envoy tweeted.

Earlier in a letter to Indian Association of Thailand, the envoy said he was in touch with Thai government and Thai companies present in India for extending possible assistance to Kerala.

The UAE offered an assistance of Rs 700 crore considering its links with Kerala. Around three million Indians live and work in the UAE, out of which 80 percent are from Kerala, according to official figures.

The floods in Kerala, worst in a century, have claimed lives of 231 people besides rendering over 14 lakh people homeless.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Aug 23, 2018 11:03:09 IST

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