Kerala flood relief: Over 200 people have died in the Kerala floods since August 8. (AFP)
New Delhi: India will not accept financial help from nations for flood-wrecked Kerala, the government said on Tuesday in an escalating row over aid from abroad. "In line with existing policy, the government of India is committed to meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts," the foreign ministry said in a statement last night. Hours later came a sharp response from Kerala's Left government. "This is a dog in the manger policy," tweeted Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac. The floods in Kerala, the worst in a century, have left nearly 240 dead since August 8.
Here are the top 10 updates on Kerala flood relief:
The dispute between Kerala and the central government over whether to accept foreign aid intensified after the United Arab Emirates offered Rs. 700 crore. Reports say Qatar and Maldives have also offered to help Kerala recover from the devastating floods.
While declining the offers, the government expressed "sincere appreciation" and said: "Contributions to PM relief fund and CM relief fund from NRIs, PIOs and international entities such as foundations would, however, be welcome."
Later, Kerala minister Thomas Isaac's tweet made his dismay clear. "We asked the union government for financial support of ₹2200 crore; they grant us a precious ₹600 crore. We make no request to any foreign government but UAE voluntarily offers Rs 700 crore. No, says union government, it is below our dignity to accept foreign aid. This is a dog in the manger policy," he tweeted.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan referred to the National Disaster Management Plan, which he says allows the centre to accept assistance offered by a foreign government.
"As a matter of policy, the Government of India does not issue any appeal for foreign assistance in the wake of a disaster. However, if the national government of another country voluntarily offers assistance as a goodwill gesture in solidarity with the disaster victims, the Central Government may accept the offer," says a section in the National Disaster Management Plan published in 2016.
Former top diplomats Shiv Shankar Menon and Nirupama Rao also questioned the government's refusal to accept help from other nations.
"If memory serves, the 2004 decision was to not accept foreign participation in relief but accept it for long term rehabilitation case by case. No rescue teams needing hand-holding and interpretation but yes to help rebuilding houses, bridges, roads etc. A way forward for Kerala?" - tweeted Shiv Shankar Menon, former National Security Advisor and Foreign Secretary.
Nirupama Rao, another former Foreign Secretary, said: "Saying no is simple, but for Kerala-in-crisis, it's not so simple."
Union Minister KJ Alphons accepted that Kerala needs "millions and millions of dollars to rebuild". But he said his government had "inherited" the previous government's policy in 2004 after the tsunami.
Even the Congress-led UPA government had, during the Uttarakhand floods in 2013, decided not to accept assistance from foreign countries.