Will India reverse its 14-year-old disaster aid policy to accept relief from foreign governments for Kerala floods?

The issue of whether India will reverse its stand on disaster aid policy set in December 2004 has been raised following Kerala chief minister’s declaration that UAE had offered Rs 700 crore for the state’s flood victims.

Union minister KJ Alphons told Firstpost, that any assistance by a foreign government towards relief operations in flood-ravaged Kerala will be subject to clearance by the Government of India.
Even as UAE and other foreign governments have offered aid, the Centre may stick to the policy set by the UPA government in 2004.

People being rescued from flood-affected regions in Kerala. PTI

People being rescued from flood-affected regions in Kerala. PTI

For now, while the government is not looking at contributions from foreign governments, efforts from private entities towards relief and rehabilitation would continue and according to sources, the Centre cannot stop foreign NGOs and aid organisations with Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) clearances to contribute relief efforts in Kerala, reported India Today.

Previously India had accepted foreign aid in response and relief after all the disasters. However, after the tsunami hit on 26 December, 2004, Manmohan Singh, who was then the prime minister had announced that India will not accept foreign aid for rescue and relief operations. Singh had said, “We feel that we can cope with the situation on our own and we will take their help if needed.”

India had accepted foreign aid during the Uttarkashi earthquake in 1991, Latur quake in 1993, Gujarat earthquake of 2001, Bengal cyclone in 2002 and also during the Bihar floods of 2004.

But after the tsunami, Manmohan, who also brought a shift in country’s economic policy in 1991, made it clear that India will refuse bilateral assistance and thus brought a change in the disaster aid policy.

In 2013, when US Secretary of State had announced Rs 90 lakh ($150,000) as an aid for the Uttarakhand flood victims, then finance minister P Chidambaram had responded saying that India would instead approach international agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank for loans for the state.

In July of 2013, Syed Akbaruddin who was the spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs had told to The Telegraph, “As a general policy in case of rescue and relief operations, we have followed the practice that we have adequate ability to respond to emergency requirements.”

The change in the policy was an attempt by India to reduce its dependence on foreign aid and instead showcase its economic power.

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Updated Date: Aug 22, 2018 16:17:30 IST