Make one-time exception and accept UAE aid: KJ Alphons

Thiruvananthapuram: Union minister KJ Alphons late on Thursday evening appealed the Centre to review the decision as the state needs UAE’s aid offer of Rs 700 crore.

“Kerala has contributed huge amounts of foreign exchange through remittance in the last 50 years. In fact, in the last year itself, it had brought Rs 750 billion… 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,” Alphons, who hails from Kerala, told to a leading news agency in Delhi.

India’s refusal to accept foreign aid for relief work in flood-battered Kerala has touched a raw nerve, with leaders of political parties in the state pressing the Centre to review the decision.

The issue snowballed following reports that the Centre was averse to taking help from foreign governments following a stand was taken by UPA government on not accepting such donations because the country had the capacity to cope up with natural disasters.

On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where most of the expatriates are from Kerala, had offered $100 million or Rs 700 crore as an aid to the state to overcome the devastation caused by the worst floods in nearly a century.

The Maldives and Qatar also reportedly offered donations for the state where the death toll stands at around 370 and where over one million people have taken refuge in more than 3,000 camps.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media that according to the National Disaster Policy of 2016, foreign funds can be accepted and so it should not be a problem.

State Finance Minister Thomas Issac said he was surprised the Centre was blocking the UAE’s financial aid to the flood victims when it had extended only Rs 600 crore so far.

“We asked for Rs 2,000 crore, they (Centre) could give us only Rs 600 crore. I don’t know why they should deny some other government’s help”, he told NDTV news channel.

It was during the first Congress-led UPA government that the rules were altered that financial assistance from foreign countries should not be accepted after natural disasters.

“It must not be forgotten that with a huge Kerala diaspora working in the Middle East, the governments in those countries have an emotional bonding with Kerala. That’s why the UAE government responded so quickly. Likewise, we will be getting assistance from the UN and other agencies too. So any law that has to be amended must be done,” said Antony.

With agency inputs