The government is open to accepting foreign aid and humanitarian assistance meant to get Kerala back on its feet after the devastating floods, sources said Wednesday evening. While no nation has yet offered aid formally, there have been offers from various organizations and foundations. The assistance, however, will be subject to the existing norms and procedures, the sources said.
The assurance will come as a relief for Kerala, which has been concerned about a shortfall in funds during the long road to reconstruction.
Earlier in the day, an ambassador from Thailand tweeted to say India has made it clear that it would not accept international aid for flood relief in Kerala. Officials had also indicated that there is little chance of the government accepting a possible Rs 700-crore aid from the United Arab Emirates, which Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had been counting on.
The new stance marks a huge shift in policy - since 2004, when the UPA-1 government came to power, the nation has not accepted any foreign aid for any natural disaster. Assistance has rather been sent to other nations when they needed it. The policy was seen as a reflection of the nation's growing economy and a new mood of self-reliance.
Kerala finance minister Thomas Issac had questioned the Centre's ability to foot the bill for the massive reconstruction the battered state needs. Pointing out that the Centre gave only Rs 600 crore when Kerala asked for Rs 2,000 crore, he said, "Given that, I don't know why they should deny some government or individual (who can help)".
Regarding the offer from UAE, which the Centre says is yet to reach, Mr Issac said the state had a long relationship with the Arab nation. "In fact, a majority of the population (in UAE) would be Malayalis," he said.
Around three million Indians live and work in the UAE, of whom 80 per cent are from Kerala.
The Home Ministry has already said Indians staying abroad can send their donations to Kerala Chief Minister's Relief Fund as that will be tax free.