Union Minister KJ Alphons said on Thursday that he will request the Centre to change a 14-year old convention on accepting foreign financial assistance, NDTV reported. At least 223 people have lost their lives due to the rain, floods and landslides in the state since August 8 and more than 360 people have died in the state since May 29.
“I would plead that for my state because I have seen the misery,” Alphons said. “We need the money.” The Union minister has been surveying the destruction caused by the flooding in the state.
The Union minister cited Kerala’s contribution to India’s foreign exchange assets. “In fact in the last year itself, it had brought Rs 75,000 crore through remittances,” Alphons told PTI. “For these reasons, as a junior minister I am appealing to my senior colleagues to make a special consideration for the state. I appeal to them to make a one-time exception to the policy.”
On Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs formally rejected offers made by foreign countries to send aid for flood relief work in Kerala citing “existing policy”. The United Arab Emirates had offered Rs 700 crore as aid to Kerala. Earlier on Thursday, the European Union announced that it would donate 1.9 lakh euros (Rs 1.53 crore) to the Indian Red Cross relief work in Kerala.
Earlier on Thursday, Alphons said the Centre was following a policy it had inherited from the previous government. “A policy decision was taken by the Manmohan Singh government in December 2004 in the aftermath of the tsunami and that policy has been continued with for the last 14 years,” PTI quoted Alphons as saying. “This is something we have inherited.”
Alphons urged Indians to donate in “big money” to help rebuild Kerala. “Now we need that big money,” he said. “Please send money to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and not to NGOs that are not credible.”
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the National Disaster Management Authority, in its 2016 policy, allowed an exception to the convention on foreign assistance if any national government of another country offers aid as a good will gesture. .
Centre should give Kerala Rs 2,600 crore: CPI
The Communist Party of India on Thursday said that the Centre, after having rejected the UAE’s offer, should give Kerala Rs 2,600 crore in financial aid, reported PTI. Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy, CPI national general secretary, said that the country should accept foreign aid in situations of natural disasters and calamities. “Whoever supports unconditionally without strings, we should accept it,” he said.
The CPI is a part of the ruling Left Democratic Front government in Kerala. “The government of India ready to give what the Kerala government is asking for,” he said. “It did not ask for all the Rs 20,000 crore [estimated loss due to the rains]. It is asking for Rs 2,600 crore.”
Reddy further said: “The Centre, if it wants to reject the offer of the UAE, should give Rs 2,600 crore and then can say that India itself is ready to solve its problems.”
The state’s finance minister, Thomas Isaac, said the Centre’s decision was “a dog in the manger policy”. “We asked Union government for financial support of Rs 2,200 crore and they grant us a precious Rs 600 crore,” Isaac tweeted. “We make no request to any foreign government, but the UAE voluntarily offered Rs 700 crore.”