- Thai ambassador said India won't accept international aid for Kerala
- Centre should not deny others chance to help Kerala, state minister said
- Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said UAE promised Rs 700 crore help
An ambassador from Thailand today tweeted to say that India has made it clear that it would not accept international aid for flood relief in Kerala - raising concerns of a shortfall during reconstruction in the ravaged state. The Centre should not deny others a chance to help Kerala, since its financial package is far below the amount requested, said state finance minister Thomas Issac.
Mr Issac made the point during an interview with NDTV, discussing the Rs 700-crore aid, which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, has been promised by the United Arab Emirates. Mr Vijayan said Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, called up Prime Minister Modi and made the offer for assistance.
The Centre has denied receiving any such offer and officials said there is a good chance that if it comes, it won't be accepted, in keeping with the policies followed by the country for nearly a decade.
The ambassador of Thailand today tweeted that he has been informally informed that India is not accepting overseas donations.
"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," Thailand''s Ambassador to India Chutintorn Sam Gongsakdi tweeted.
India has refused all bilateral aid for disaster as its economy grew, marking a new era of self-reliance. India did not even accept bilateral aid after the devastating tsunami in 2004, or the flash flood in Uttarakhand. After the tsunamis, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said, "We feel that we can cope with the situation on our own and we will take their help if needed".
Mr Issac, however, questioned the Centre's ability to foot the bill for the massive reconstruction the state needs.
"We asked for 2000 crore, they could give us only 600 crore. So given that, I don't know why they should deny some government or individual (who can help)," Mr Issacs said. "See, UAE and Kerala has such a long relationship. In fact, a majority of the population (in UAE) would be Malayalis," he added.
Around three million Indians live and work in the UAE, of whom 80 per cent are from Kerala. The Home Ministry has said Indians staying abroad can send their donations to Kerala Chief Minister's Relief Fund as that will be tax free.
Asked if Kerala's "ultimate demands will not be realized," he said when it came to immediate help, the centre fell short. The state managed to tide over the crisis because of the huge response to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. "The concern is about the second phase -- the reconstruction," Mr Issacs said.
During last year's Bihar floods, against a request for 7,600 crore, the Centre had given 1700 crore, including the Rs 500 crore initial relief given to the state.
Kerala, Mr Issac said, has prepared a programme. "Our demands are at least for 2 years (fiscal deficit target under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act) limit for Kerala from (the current) 3 per cent to 4.5 per cent. That should bring us something like 20,000 to 25,000 crore," he added.
The plans were outlined by the Chief Minister in a series of tweets yesterday. The state, he tweeted, will demand a ₹2600-Crore MGNREGA special package for Central schemes. It will also "request NABARD for a special scheme to implement long-term projects for infrastructure development in agriculture, irrigation and associated areas and social sectors", he tweeted.
(Kerala has to rebuild itself after the worst floods in over a century. Hundreds have died and lakhs are homeless. Here is how you can help.)