Hours before the Centre said a polite no to the UAE offer of Rs 700 crore for relief and rehabilitation works in flood-ravaged Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, citing his state’s special bonds with the emirates, said the UAE “cannot be considered as any other nation”.
“As I understand, UAE on its own has proposed this aid. UAE cannot be considered as any other nation, as their rulers have underlined. Indians, especially Keralites, have contributed immensely in their nation-building,” Vijayan said in an interview to The Indian Express.
Vijayan had earlier said that Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, made the assistance offer when he spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over phone.
On Wednesday night, Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said: “In line with the existing policy, the Government is committed to meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts.”
“Contributions to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund and the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund from NRIs, PIOs and international entities such as foundations would, however, be welcome. The Government of India deeply appreciates offers from several countries, including from foreign governments, to assist in relief and rehabilitation efforts after the tragic floods,” the spokesperson said.
India has been turning down overseas assistance since 2004 when the central government finalised a disaster aid policy in the wake of the tsunami.
In Kerala, the central government has invited flak for the flood relief amount released so far — Rs 600 crore. On Wednesday, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac took to Twitter: “National Disaster Management Plan Chapter 9 on international cooperation accepts that in time severe calamity voluntary aid given by a foreign gov can be accepted. Still if Union Gov chooses to adopt a negative stance towards offer made by UAE gov (government) they should compensate Kerala.”
Chief Minister Vijayan, however, said: “I do not intend to enter into any politics over it. Let us study and understand the nuances.” Asked if he would take up the matter with the Prime Minister, he said: “Let us see.”
A CPM politburo member, Vijay said he would not like to create any controversy on what led to the disaster. He denied that there had been mismanagement in dealing with the water levels at the dams — a charge levelled by Opposition parties in Kerala.
“The persons responsible for dam management have come out with concrete statements of facts. They have provided details to me too. It is very clear that all mandatory procedures and humanly possible steps were taken,” he said.
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Vijayan said his government has completed the rescue works and will go about building a new Kerala instead of rebuilding the state. “We intend to have rehabilitation, not as a work to place the former structures there. That’s why I said, instead of rebuilding, we should focus on building a new Kerala. We will have comprehensive planning, we will bring expertise from every nook and corner and a concrete plan will be executed,” he said.
He said concerns of all sectors will be taken into view while building the state afresh. He said the state’s developmental activities will not be affected by the rehabilitation process and will continue simultaneously.
Repeatedly praising the exemplary work done by the people of Kerala in rescuing those affected, Vijayan said the state will go about the rehabilitation work “in an equally glittering way”.