New Delhi: While the Centre has been widely criticised for refusing foreign aid for rain- and flood-battered Kerala, it turns out that the Government is just following an old policy; put in place in 2004 by then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. A government source was quoted by DNA as saying, “We are following the policy since 2004 and have been turning down assistance from foreign governments since then. In Kerala also, we are sticking to that policy.” (Also read: NASA Releases Satellite Video of Kerala Downpour)
Kerala’s ruling CPI-M and the Opposition Congress have expressed unhappiness over the Centre’s stand. Former defence minister AK Antony said the rules should be changed to accept foreign donations. The issue snowballed on reports that the Centre was averse to taking help from foreign governments following a stand of then UPA government on not accepting such donations because the country had the capacity to cope with natural disasters. It was during the 2004 tsunami that Dr Singh’s government decided not to accept foreign aid. Though India had accepted aid from foreign governments during the 1991 Uttarkashi earthquake, 2001 Gujarat earthquake and 2002 Bengal cyclone. In the 2004 tsunami, Tamil Nadu and Andaman and Nicobar Islands were affected, killing more than 12,000 people and rendering 6 lakhs homeless.
Since then, India has refused aid from Russia, US and Japan in 2013 Uttarakhand floods, 2005 Kashmir earthquake and 2014 Kashmir floods. The UPA government thought India had the capacity to handle disasters. Accepting aid from one country would mean accepting aid from all, which could affect international relations, said the report. However, foreigner individuals and NGOs can donate through proper channels. (Also read: Demand For Handymen Shoots up)
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, had called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi and made an offer of Rs 700 crore financial aid. Reportedly, the Maldives had also offered aid. Reports say that the UN has also made an offer of financial assistance. The Thailand Ambassador has also tweeted that the Centre has turned down his country’s offer for assistance, drawing criticism from political parties. Former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy has also called the Centre’s aid “disappointing”.