New Delhi: Contrary to what Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan claimed about UAE’s generous Rs 700 crore aid offer and kicked up a row over Centre not accepting the funds, the Gulf nation has now come forward to clarify that they have made no such specific announcements.
However, CM Vijayan continues to stand by his word. On Friday he again said that the Crown Prince had indeed made the offer in a phone call to PM Modi.
He said, "There is no ambiguity on UAE aid. As I mentioned the other day itself, aid was discussed between the UAE Crown Prince and PM. I hope the Centre will accept it. As for the Rs 700 crore figure, I had made it clear that the information came from businessman MA Yusuff Ali. He had himself told me that the Crown Prince discussed $100 million (Rs 700 crore approx) aid with the PM. I repeatedly asked him if I could reveal this. And he told me there was no problem if I did."
In a parting shot, Vijayan added, "Hope everyone has seen PM Modi's tweet."
On August 18, PM Narendra Modi tweeted: "A big thanks to @hhshkmohd for his gracious offer to support people of Kerala during this difficult time. His concern reflects the special ties between governments and people of India and UAE."
UAE and Vijayan's claims and counter claims come just a day after Union minister KJ Alphons, who hails from the state, also joined the Kerala politicians to plead the Union government to accept UAE's offer to help the flood-ravaged state that has suffered Rs 20,000 crore damages.
No specific amount for financial aid to Kerala has been finalised officially by the United Arab Emirates and there was no announcement on donation to the state, officials at the UAE embassy in New Delhi said on Friday.
A big thanks to @hhshkmohd for his gracious offer to support people of Kerala during this difficult time. His concern reflects the special ties between governments and people of India and UAE.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 18, 2018
Days after PM Modi's note of thanks, on August 21, CM Vijayan tweeted, “United Arab Emirates will provide Kerala an assistance of Rs 700 crore. CM expressed the gratitude of Kerala for the support.”
He further added, “This was communicated to the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi (@PMOIndia) by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan (@MohamedBinZayed), Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE's Armed Forces.”
However, UAE ambassador Ahmed Albannam has said that his government only set up a national emergency committee to provide relief assistance to Kerala.
The Kerala unit of BJP, on the other hand, demanded that CM Vijayan reveal the source who told him about the Rs 700 crore offer.
Addressing the media, state BJP chief PS Sreedharan Pillai said: "We want Vijayan to explain about this news and from where he received it. After the Centre expressed reservations in accepting the aid, a vicious smear campaign was unleashed against the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi."
CM Pinarayi Vijayan informed that the United Arab Emirates will provide Kerala an assistance of ₹700 Crore. Kerala has a special relationship with UAE, which is a home away from home for Malayalees. We express our gratitude to UAE for their support. #KeralaFloodRelief pic.twitter.com/yfwbt9iEkd— CMO Kerala (@CMOKerala) August 21, 2018
"The UAE has not officially announced any financial aid for Kerala flood relief. We have not conveyed anything to India on any assistance," a senior official in the UAE embassy told PTI.
The embassy has said that the UAE may come out with its plan in the next few days to extend assistance to flood victims.
Around three million Indians live and work in the UAE, out of which 80 per cent are from Kerala, according to official figures.
On August 18, Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tweeted that his country has formed a committee for extending help to flood affected people in Kerala.
"UAE and the Indian community will unite to offer relief to those affected. We have formed a committee to start immediately. We urge everyone to contribute generously towards this initiative," he tweeted.
The assistance of UAE was first informed to Malayali businessman and philanthropist Yusuff Ali M.A.— CMO Kerala (@CMOKerala) August 21, 2018
Days after the Kerala CM said the UAE has offered to give Rs 700 crore to his state, the Ministry of External Affairs made it clear that the Centre will not allow any financial assistance from foreign governments for Kerala in sync with an existing policy.
The MEA, however, said contributions to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund and the Chief Minister's Relief Fund from NRIs (Non Resident Indians, PIOs (Persons of Indian Origin) and international entities such as foundations will be welcomed.
While refusing foreign aid, the government invoked a policy decision taken by the Manmohan Singh government in 2004 in the aftermath of the Tsunami for not accepting foreign assistance.
After the MEA said India will not accept donations from foreign nations, an unhappy Vijayan said the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had in 2016 suggested that assistance offered as a goodwill gesture "may" be accepted, asserting that there is no blanket ban on receiving such assistance.
Vijayan said he would approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue.