Any assistance by a foreign government towards relief operations in flood-ravaged Kerala will be subject to clearance by the Government of India, Union minister KJ Alphons told Firstpost. The Kerala minister's comment came hours after the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Maldives and Qatar pledged assistance to the Indian government for relief and rehabilitation measures in the state.
"Any assistance from foreign countries — and I am only talking about foreign countries — is to be decided by the Government of India. Whether to accept (the offers) or not is to be decided only by the Government of India," Alphons said.
When asked if the monetary value of the UAE's assistance for flood relief in Kerala exceeded that offered by the Centre, Alphons reiterated that such assistance by the UAE will first have to be decided upon by the central government.
So, is the government likely to eventually accept the disaster relief aid being offered by foreign nations? "I don’t know, this is to be decided by the Government of India — not by me or the government of Kerala. It is a policy decision of the government," the minister said.
Alphons added that even UPA government had "taken a decision that we will not take any foreign assistance" in events of natural disasters, although he added that he was unsure of the details of said decision. India is following the disaster aid policy adopted in December 2004 by the then ruling UPA government led by Manmohan Singh.
"We feel that we can cope with the situation on our own and we will take their help if needed," Manmohan had said then. If the Centre accepts the assistance from UAE, it will be reversing a 14-year-old convention.
Until the 2004 tsunami, the government had accepted aid for several calamities, including the Uttarkashi earthquake (1991), Latur earthquake (1993), Gujarat earthquake (2001), West Bengal cyclone (2002) and Bihar floods (2004). But in late 2004, the government's policy towards such aid had a "watershed moment".
"We are following the policy since 2004, and have been turning down assistance from foreign governments since then. In Kerala also, we are sticking to that policy,” the report quoted a government source as saying. This policy now puts the significant monetary aid for Kerala in limbo.
On Tuesday, the UAE extended $100 million (about Rs 700 crore) as financial assistance to rebuild the southern Indian state. UAE, which is home to 2.6 million Indians who constitue 30 percent of its population, tops the list of countries that have offered aid to India to help with the aftermath of the Kerala floods.
Qatar has announced a donation of $5 million. The country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted on Sunday announcing its plan to provide the monetary aid. The Maldives, which shares rickety ties with India under its present regime, also stepped in and offered a $50,000 (about Rs 35 lakh) assistance to Kerala.
In China, the Indian diaspora in association with the Malayalee Association has raised over Rs 14 lakh for the welfare of flood relief victims in Kerala, PTI had reported.
The international assistance comes in addition to the Rs 600 crore immediate assistance given by the Centre as interim relief. Initially, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had visited the state on 12 August and declared an immediate assistance of Rs 100 crore to Kerala.
Later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to the state on 16 August, had announced an additional aid of Rs 500 crore.
Updated Date: Aug 22, 2018 18:44 PM