New Delhi: As the Centre continuous to assert that they won’t accept any aid from other nations for Kerala flood relief, Union minister KJ Alphons seems to have taken a contrarian position by saying that the flood-ravaged state needs UAE’s aid offer of Rs 700 crore.
Alphons, who hails from Kerala, also clarified that the ‘no foreign aid’ policy was something the Modi government inherited from the previous governments, who did not accept any aid even during the 2004 tsunami and Uttarakhand tragedy in 2013.
The minister has also appealed for an "one time exception" to the 14-year convention to allow overseas assistance.
"I spoke to many ministers regarding this. I think we need foreign aid. I have requested them to make an one-time exception for Kerala so that the state can access foreign aid. I have made a humble request as I can only request. The decision is theirs. This is my position," Alphons told News18.
He added that the government is now mulling over his proposition.
Alphons further told News18 that the amount Centre has given to Kerala as aid is “adequate for the time being”.
He added, “I appeal to all Indians to take out their cheque books to donate as much as they can as Kerala needs enormous amounts of money. What the Govt of India has issued in flood relief is more than adequate for now. There is enough money for immediate rescue and relief.”
While the Centre has politely turned down UAE’s generous offer along with those of Maldives and Qatar, it has maintained that India’s position on foreign aid has been to not accept any aid from the governments of other nations. However, individuals, NGOs and other such entities can donate to the Chief Minister’s and Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
Alphons' latest appeal gives a fresh twist to the controversy over accepting foreign aid as the Centre continues to draw flak from opposition parties and Kerala ministers.
Earlier, Alphons blamed Centre’s refusal to foreign aid on the 14-year convention it "inherited" from previous governments.
"A policy decision was taken by the Manmohan Singh government in December, 2004 in the aftermath of the tsunami and that policy has been continued with for the last 14 years. This is something we have inherited," he told reporters earlier on Thursday.
Among others, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had criticised the BJP-led government over the refusal of aid and said the rain-ravaged southern state had asked the Centre for a financial support of Rs 2,200 crore, but was granted only Rs 600 crore.
"We make no request to any foreign government but UAE government voluntarily offered Rs 700 crore. No, says Union government, it is below our dignity to accept foreign aid. This is a dog in the manger policy (sic)," Isaac had written on Twitter.
He had further said as part of the state government's resource mobilisation efforts for the ongoing relief-and-rescue operations for the flood-hit people, it had increased the excise duty on liquor and was geared to approach the GST Council for imposing a 10-per cent cess on SGST. "Both together on annualised basis mobilise ?750 crore (sic)," Isaac had written on the microblogging website.
Alphons, who has been in the thick of things, is continuously updating the rest of the country about the conditions in Kerala and listing out the requirements of the people of the state as they hobble back to normalcy.
The Union tourism minister also appealed to all the Indians to donate "big money" for the cause.
"We need huge amounts of money -- millions and billions of dollars to rebuild Kerala. Now we need that big money. Please send money to the chief minister's relief fund and not to NGOs that are not credible," he said.