India not accepting overseas aid for Kerala, says Thailand; Congress asks Centre to relax norms
India has refused to accept overseas donations for flood relief in Kerala, Thailand has said amid indications that the country is unlikely accept foreign financial assistance for rebuilding the rain-ravaged state, including the Rs 700 crore offered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Informally informed with regret that the Government of India is not accepting overseas donations for Kerala flood relief. Our hearts are with you, the people of Bharat,” Thai Ambassador to India Chutintorn Sam Gongsakdi said in a tweet on Tuesday.
The UAE, home to hundreds of thousands of Keralites, had offered Rs 700 crore as flood relief for Kerala. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, called up prime minister Modi and made the offer for assistance, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in Thiruvananthapuram.
The Maldives and Qatar also reportedly offered donations, while the United Nations has also offered some assistance.
However, India is unlikely to accept any foreign financial assistance for Kerala, official sources said, adding that the government has taken a considered decision to rely solely on domestic efforts to tide over the situation, according to a PTI report.
Vijayan however on Wednesday evening claimed foreign aid was allowed as per the disaster management policy.
“The 2016 National Disaster Management Policy says, ‘if government of another country voluntarily offers assistance as a goodwill gesture in solidarity with the disaster victims, the central government may accept the offer’. Right now only talk is happening, let us see what happens,” he said at a press conference, as per ANI.
Earlier on Wednesday, Congress leader AK Antony asked the Modi government to rewrite the rules so that financial support can come from abroad for flood-hit Kerala.
“If the rule was changed by the previous government, I have no qualms to say that the Modi government should rewrite it. With the present rule, it may not be possible to accept the $100 million announced by the UAE government for Kerala. So change the rules,” he said, reported IANS.
It was during the first Congress-led UPA government that the rules was altered that financial assistance from foreign countries should not be accepted after natural disasters.
According to ANI, former Kerala chief minister Ommen Chandy, in a letter to Modi, said: “Unfortunately, I am sorry to say that the financial assistance announced by the Government of India is quite disappointing as far the magnitude of the crisis is concerned.”
Battered Kerala is trying to return to normalcy as the rains relent and flood waters subside but experts say it could take years for the state to help rebuild its people’s lives, destroyed in one of the worst floods in a century and officials admit that rebuilding the state will be a “daunting task”.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), 373 people have lost their lives and 32 others went missing in Kerala since May 30. There has also been extensive damage to roads, bridges, standing crops as well as private property.
While the Centre on Tuesday released Rs 600 crore to the state, the Kerala government has sought a Rs 2,600-crore special package and also demanded the Centre to raise the limit of money it can borrow from the market, from the existing level of 3% of the state’s gross domestic product.
Vijayan said Kerala desperately needed more money and resources to tide over the crisis and present borrowing limit was an impediment.