Govt inherited policy of refusing foreign aid: Alphons

Govt inherited policy of refusing foreign aid: Alphons

People marooned at a damaged road in a flood-hit area in Thrissur district on August 20, 2018. PTI

The Centre's decision to decline UAE's Rs 700 crore “goodwill gesture” to flood-ravaged Kerala on the grounds of past practice has invited criticism from several quarters, including the Left which described it as a "strange" call that will "harm the interests" of the state.

The UAE has offered Rs 700 crore, saying people of Kerala have always been and are still part of "our success story in the UAE" and they have a "special responsibility" to help and support those affected.

While the BJP leaders cite the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement not to accept bilateral aid soon after Tsunami in December 2004 to defend the NDA government's decision, officials and leaders remind that the UPA government had tweaked its stand the very next week following criticism.

The NDA government's defence came from Union Tourism Minister K Alphons, who said they have “just inherited” a 14-year-old decision to say no to external aid.

“A policy decision was taken by the Manmohan Singh government in December 2004 in the aftermath of Tsunami and that policy has been continued with for the last 14 years. This is something we have inherited,” he said.

The official 'Tsunami: A Report to the Nation' released by the government on June 3, 2005, provides a different picture. According to the report, the government had then said that there was no need for external assistance for immediate relief and response.

However, it said, for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction for Tsunami-affected states, the government has approved external assistance from multilateral agencies like World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and UN agencies. "Bilateral assistance was also to be accepted if routed through the multilateral agencies," the report said.

The National Disaster Management Plan, put out by the NDA government in 2016, also said, "if the national government of another country voluntarily offers assistance as a goodwill gesture in solidarity with the disaster victims, the central government may accept the offer."

Left leaders claimed there is no policy as such, as cited by BJP leaders, as both the 2005 report and the 2016 plan clearly provide the provision for accepting bilateral fund.

In an editorial in party mouthpiece People's Democracy, the CPM said the generous assistance by the UAE underlines the "special relations" which Gulf countries have with Kerala.

On the decision to decline the offer, it said, "this will be an erroneous stand which will harm the interests of Kerala.”

CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy said, "it is really a matter of shame for Modi who had received foreign money as the Gujarat chief minister, when the state was hit by an earthquake, to deny the same relief to Kerala in the name of some ticklish tradition...This is false prestige as UAE offered more than union government," Reddy said.

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